Angel-A (2007)
Angel-A (2007)

Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: May 25th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Luc Besson Actors: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine, Venus Boone, Solange Milhaud

 


 

D

espite the obvious borrowing of concepts from “Its A Wonderful Life,” among others, Luc Besson’s “Angel-A” is a highly entertaining fantasy. Superb acting and poignant dialogue paired with crisp black-and-white cinematography and rousing imagery more than make up for the runaway fairytale elements that prevent the conclusion from being anything more than generic. What works in the film far outweighs what doesn’t, giving the production a unique place amongst the more mature cinematic romances of late.

André (Jamel Debbouze) is a down-on-his-luck, 28-year-old Paris resident who owes money all over town and finds himself constantly in trouble with the law and the various ruffians to which he is indebted. Continually lying to himself, including lying to the audience in his opening narration, André has little self-esteem, no friends, no companions, and barely an identity in the lonely streets of the city of love. When he contemplates throwing himself off a bridge to avoid the gangsters out to do him harm, he discovers a tall, statuesque blonde woman (Rie Rasmussen) about to do the same. When she jumps in, he dives in to rescue her, and she thanks him by vowing to do whatever he wants. Simply by being with her, he begins to slowly regain long-lost basic human emotions and an appreciation for life. When she convinces him that she’s actually an angel sent to help him, he struggles with his escalating feelings for the divine being and determines to find a way to keep her with him.

The story of “Angel-A” is endlessly amusing, thanks to its basest form of simple fantasy; it’s a delightful dream basked in retribution and mightiness and confidence. Like “Weird Science” or “Mannequin,” both being of much stricter adolescent mindsets, “Angel-A” focuses on the underdog who is surrounded by the impossible. Being helped by otherworldly powers to get revenge, redemption, and a newfound reason for living is supremely pleasing to watch, regardless of which direction the film eventually takes – be it “Wings of Desire” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

Sadly, despite the marvelous setup, the humorous situations, and the engrossing dialogue, “Angel-A” is unable to delve into heavenly aspects and then resolve them in an earthly fashion. The conclusion, while presumably more unbelievable than the already outlandish first two acts, is too neat and tidy for what fans have come to expect from director Luc Besson. His idea is cinematically appealing, but the resolution is forced, as if he didn’t have the time to come up with an ending that could really do the beginning justice.

But the biggest success of “Angel-A” is the chemistry between Debbouze and Rasmussen. The physical contrasts, aided by camera tricks and gimmicks, adds to their mismatched affections. Not enough can be said about Jamel’s performance; when a one-armed actor can make audiences forget that he is handicapped, it’s a true testament to his acting abilities. As he did with “Indigenes” (or “Days of Glory”) the year before, his humanism and believability is so immersive that the curious absence of movement in his right arm is almost entirely forgotten. Likewise with Rie, her stunning physical figure and styling is enough to make anyone believe she truly is an angel.

– Joel Massie

  • 7/10