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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 33.33%
Just Average: 22.22%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Marc Kandel

"Angels with dirtyÖ actually, she looks clean to me. Nice undies too."
3 stars

Ultimately "Angel-A" bears Bessonís inimitable stamp, but the focus on his beloved theme of redemptive love might just be too tight, slipping through his fingers in the third act.

Aside from this film, Iíve only seen two of Luc Bessonís works- Leon and The Fifth Element (yes, yes, I know I have to see Nikita). The former is among my top five favorite films of all time, the latter is so refreshingly original in execution and so outrageously entertaining that its one of those films that I canít turn off when its on, I stop what Iím doing and see it through to the end; a rare example of successfully re-inventing the wheel. Bearing that in mind, and understanding that this is a director who wants to do new things, not simply resting on his laurels or endlessly remaking his original triumphs, its painful for me to knock this effort, but it just didn't do it for me in the end.

Angel-A tells the story of Andre, a no-account schlub in terminal debt to every disreputable thug in Paris and not a cent or shred of dignity to his name. Past his deadline for repayment, unable to find a solution (he canít even get arrested properly) and disgusted with the failure of his life, Andre intends to drown himself into the Seine after screaming at the heavens only to discover a painfully beautiful woman plunging into the water, whom Andre ends up dragging from the river, her suicide attempt trumping and aborting his suicide attempt. Her name as you may have guessed is Angela, and as the movieís title might suggest yet again, there may be more to her that meets the eye (no, sheís not a Transformer). The unlikely pair traverses the streets and sights of Paris in an odd partnership where Angela repays Andre for saving her by saving him- first financially, then spiritually. Angela then discovers she might bear some saving herself.

My attraction to Bessonís work has always been how shriekingly high the stakes are through the course of his stories- here, I felt like that immediacy and tension was gone by act two- the film had effectively blown its load within forty-five minutes for an hour and a half escapade- convincing me that the hour and a half story might work far better as a short rather than a feature. What was left, though cinematically beautiful and emotionally touching by degrees amounted to a self-help video or worse, a movie about self-helpers- imagine Stuart Saves His Family (there is a ďsay-I-love-you-to-yourself-in-the- mirrorĒ scene that had me shifting uncomfortably) blended with Weird Science without the Bill Paxton shit-monster or bra headgear. These are not examples I should be likening to a Luc Besson film. Yes, all the elements that he has explored with such genius in past works are present: violence juxtaposed against innocence, humor juxtaposed against violence, incompatibles finding compatibility, and certainly this is a different animal from his other pieces, but this particular tale not an unfamiliar beast to most, and the execution, though laudable and artful (particularly the choice of black and white making for a more timeless visually intricate experience), was not as compelling as expected.

Thatís not to say that Angel-A is without its rewards. Rie Rasmussenís and Jamel Debbouzeís performances are vibrantly expressive and alternatively hilarious and heart-wrenching. The sight of the two next to each other is as fascinating as any dialogue- Angela is an Amazonian bombshell bereft of even the slightest iota of self-consciousness while Andre in contrast looks as though heís been CGIíed to Hobbit proportions, a baffled troll constantly shifting and hiding within the folds of his coat, furtive and fearful of the world, wearing his self-loathing like a sequined robe. It's the visual equivalent of Richard the Third doing a buddy movie with the Fifty Foot Woman.

My favorite moment occurs in a cafe where the questions of Angelaís origin are put to rest. I thought about how I would react to the situation- only a moment later, Andre has that exact reaction. Itís wonderful- that successful, magical moment of any story be it printed, voiced or filmed when the audience member is so drawn in as to put themselves in the characterís situation to ponder their own solution or action. Itís so effective that later events and plotting are left wanting to this one moment of illumination and realization. I would have liked to have seen this moment occur closer to the conclusion of the tale, leaving it more ambiguous, but then again, one look at the title tells you this is not a film that hinges on ambiguity- this is, in the end, the creation of a relationship- I was simply left wondering how far the relationship could go.

Angel-A is a love letter to Paris carried off competently, and there isnít a frame of the film I wouldnít want to jump into and spend an afternoon, but I could also say the same for an illustrated Frommerís Guide to France. So in the end, we must leave the delectable countryside and focus in on our characters, and there I found my amusement and willingness to suspend disbelief giving way to impatience and skepticism.

Recommended to die-hard Besson fans and cinema buffs for the themes and delectable visuals, but the average Joe might come away a trifle irked and weary.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15607&reviewer=358
originally posted: 03/02/07 15:29:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/03/11 s. russo A fantastic little gem of a movie from Besson, but it's Mr. Debbouze who sparkles. 4 stars
11/28/08 CTT Entertaining little film, often funny 4 stars
10/23/07 William Goss Original or not, gorgeous to look at and pervasively charming. 4 stars
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  25-May-2007 (R)
  DVD: 20-Nov-2007



Directed by
  Luc Besson

Written by
  Luc Besson

  Jamel Debbouze
  Rie Rasmussen
  Olivier Claverie
  Gilbert Melki
  Kate Nauta
  Serge Riaboukine

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