La Femme Angel-ika
The Popcorn Reel Movie Review: "Angel-A"
By Omar P.L. Moore/May 27, 2007
Rie Rasmussen and Jamel Debbouze in "Angel-A", directed by Luc Besson, whose
2005 film finally hits the shores of the U.S. The film opened last Friday
in New York and Los Angeles and opens in San Francisco and other American cities
this coming Friday, June 1.
Sixteen years ago Luc Besson directed "La Femme Nikita", a
sexy, visceral action thriller that had an underbelly to it that pulsated and
starred Anne Parillaud, in dazzling color. The film centered on an
identity-less woman who is brainwashed and made into a brutal contract killer.
"Angel-A", which opened last week in New York City and Los Angeles and opens
this weekend in San Francisco and other cities, takes a mellower tact: In
France, a down-and-out petty criminal named Andre (Jamel Debbouze) who is about
to jump to his death in the River Seine, when Angela (Rie Rasmussen) a tall,
stunningly attractive leggy platinum blonde, beats him to it. He jumps in
after her, and saving each other, a relationship begins.
Andre, a man with more than a few self-esteem issues, has to pay off his debt to a crime lord and Angela helps out in a big way.
She has some unmistakably heavenly and angelic qualities, even though some of her deeds are
"Angel-A" features some good dialogue, some funny philosophical exchanges
between the quick-witted Angela and the sad, Chaplin-esque figure of Andre, who
make a great odd couple of sorts. For anyone who has bravely viewed the VH-1 cable
television series that featured Flavor Flav of the rap group Public Enemy and
Brigitte Nielsen as celebrity lovers, the pairing of Rasmussen and Debbouze (who
appeared briefly in Spike Lee's "She Hate Me" and more so in "Days Of Glory")
have comparable aspects. Unlike the mismatch of the "reality" television
series, here there appears to be a genuine comfort level between the two actors
as the film progresses. The issue with Mr. Besson's film is that the
overall storyline is not engaging enough to hold the audience's interest.
There is not enough gravity to invest thoroughly in the situations of the lead
actors, and when the film hits a dead end, bursts of melodrama are supposed to
spark "Angel-A" to life -- but they don't.
The only aspect of "Angel-A" that holds the audience's interest is Rie
Rasmussen, who is striking, alluring and casts a sexy sleekness and
desirability as the angelic Angela. She doesn't have the feral aspects of Parillaud's character in "La Femme Nikita", but she does have that black dress,
savvy, style and sex appeal. There are times however, when one wishes to
ask why Angela chose to descend upon the River Seine in the first place.
Angela is more complex and tortured than Andre, yet she seems to have all the
answers for him when she can't supply any for herself. With her
other-worldly power, wouldn't one think that she could come up with the ability
to unlock her past? Unless the director is making Angela a tragic figure,
one trapped in a state of suspension and being cursed with powers that help and
not hurt, "Angel-A" threatens to become an aimless exercise. This power to
heal that characters have to help others but not themselves in films is not new,
and has been present in films for a while. One of the more recent examples
of this is the Will Smith character in Robert Redford's "The Legend Of Bagger
Vance", a film in which Smith plays a caddy with extra-worldly powers to help
Matt Damon regain his golfing swing while in the American south in the 1930's.
While blacks faced horror and turmoil in the South during that time, Smith's
Bagger Vance character somehow couldn't use his magical, mystical, majestical
powers to assist the blacks that were catching hell in the landscape during
"Angel-A" doesn't quite have the need for the characters to rescue each other;
they do this many times, even as the narrative attempts to go deeper in its
exploration of the characters, but there is something missing -- not the color,
because the black and white texture (thanks to cinematographer Thierry Arbogast)
of "Angel-A" is its saving grace -- but some other substance, that j'ai ne sais
quoi -- the same thing that lacked in Michael Mann's "Ali" -- that would have
resuscitated Mr. Besson's film to great heights.
"Angel-A" is rated R for language and some sexual content by the Motion
Picture Association of America. The film's running time is one hour and 31
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