Almost an Angel (1990)
Almost an Angel (1990)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: December 19th, 1990 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: John Cornell Actors: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Elias Koteas, Douglas Seale, Parley Baer, Ruth Warshawsky, Michael Alldredge, David Alan Grier, Larry Miller

 


 

B

reaking-and-entering and alarm-cracking expert Terry Dean (Paul Hogan) finally leaves the state prison after a five-year stretch. And he has no intention of going back to his old, predictable gigs, especially considering that he’s so well known for compromising security systems that every time a bank is robbed he’s automatically the number one suspect. But he has a fresh angle; if he dresses in an elaborate celebrity disguise (such as Willie Nelson), perhaps no one will pin him with the crime. And he manages to do just that, snagging over $60,000 from the Pacific States Bank just days after his release.

Shortly thereafter, Terry instinctually saves a child from getting hit by a car, taking the heavy impact himself. When he awakes, he’s in what must surely be Heaven, surrounded by clouds and a stoic, godlike figure, who explains that Dean is on a probation of sorts. Although he’s taken from others during most of his life, his spontaneous act of courage has afforded him a second chance. He will go back to Earth as an angel of mercy, tasked solely with helping others. But it’s merely a trial basis, which can be rescinded at any time. “Your honor, does this happen all the time?”

Arising from his hospital bed, Terry initially dismisses the notion of his visit with God. But during a follow-up bank heist, a near-death scenario renews his faith, inspiring him to pursue a life of helping the needy and giving instead of taking. Of course, there’s a bit of a learning curve.

Curiously, Hogan’s schtick from “Crocodile Dundee,” in which he’s comically unfamiliar with New York life, is reused here to some degree, as he’s a crook with an unfamiliarity toward righteousness. This results in moments of slapstick arising from misinterpretations of biblical phrases, or the unrefined manner in which he discusses religious conduct. Plus, the plot is loaded with coincidental – yet heavenly – signs to point Terry in the right direction. Humorously, he doesn’t sacrifice his criminalistic tendencies during his odyssey of redemption (or earning his wings).

“That’s what I like about you, Terry. You’re such an asshole.” He’s on a quest for a higher cause, but he’s content with wandering, coming to the rescue of anyone who happens to need an attitude adjustment. He also manages to randomly find his way into friendship (with wheelchair-bound Steve Garner [Elias Koteas]), romance (with Steve’s sister Rose [Linda Kozlowski]), and a dash of godliness (in the image of Charlton Heston). Since the film is written by Hogan, he’s suave, worldly, independent, scrappy, and quick-witted. But these are all qualities that Dundee possessed, making his performance derivative rather than fresh. It’s not unpleasant seeing him in a familiar persona, but it’s not overwhelmingly amusing, either – especially since he stars alongside Kozlowski yet again (his love interest also not stepping out of her comfort zone).

The humor never quite manages to stick, even though the premise is clever, the characters are watchable, and a certain awkwardness in the interactions adds a layer of mirth. The pacing drags at times as well (a couple of scene fades feel amateurish, as if the narrative doesn’t know how to proceed), despite building to an inevitable confrontation with the authorities and a poignant resolution to Steve’s physical affliction. Unfortunately, the ending leaves something to be desired, providing answers but not much of a resolute conclusion – and certainly not the fairy-tale romance audiences will want to see for these cozy stars.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10