PRAYER for the Dying" is the right name for this salvation story about an Irish terrorist with a conscience. The movie is DOA.

Where to start the autopsy? Mickey Rourke? As I.R.A. member Martin Fallon who has seen too many killings and just wants out, his enthusiasm for the role is exceeded by his incompetence. Although his "Irish" accent is tongues ahead of Ryan O'Neal's blarney babbling in "Barry Lyndon," it's passable at best. When he meets priest Father Da Costa (Bob Hoskins), he calls him "Fara," and you think, "Farrar Straus & Giroux? Or Farrah Fawcett?" And his hair is so obviously dyed, you can't help looking for a red stain on the wall he was leaning against.

After escaping Ireland, Fallon needs a passport to America. But Jack Meehan, the guy who can do the job (a puffy-faced Alan Bates as a mortician-cum-extortionist), wants a favor in return -- one more murder. When Fallon follows through, he's witnessed by the priest. But Fallon doesn't kill him; confessing to him instead and therefore obligating Da Costa to secrecy. But Jack Meehan doesn't want a witness knocking around who might pin him to the crime. The cops want Da Costa to cough up. And the I.R.A. wants to kill Fallon because he knows all its strategic secrets.

The rest is sheer embalmed stupidity. There's Anna, Da Costa's niece, who falls in love with Fallon (explanatory note: She's blind). And there are macho faceoffs between Da Costa, Fallon and the Meehan mean mortician gang. During this time, Rourke is saying "Fara" a great deal, looking heavenward for no apparent reason and never changing his clothes. Meanwhile Bill Conti's lilty Irish score brings to mind Irish Spring soap commercials.

It's regrettable to see Hoskins work up his talents in vain. As the ex-macho who can lead masses and, when push comes to shove, make mincemeat out of thugs, he's a charming character. But for all his efforts, "Prayer for the Dying" is beyond redemption.


At area theaters.