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Directed by Luc Besson.
Written by Luc Besson.
Starring Jamel Debbouze and Rie Rasmussen.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  1/30/07


Signs that you are at the Sundance Film Festival:

  1. 300 people pay $10-$15 per ticket to see a nearly-two-year-old black & white comedy/fantasy film directed by Luc Besson, who did "The Professional" and "The Fifth Element."

  2. Luc Besson himself shows up to introduce the film, which is his first-ever entry into the festival.

Although the film was received with middling praise in Besson's home of France, "Angel-A" went over very well with both my particular audience and's a much smaller film than you are used to with Besson (his previous directorial effort prior to "Angel-A" was "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc", a whopping six-year gap) but it has the same kind of energy you got from "The Fifth Element", thanks to the performances of just two people.  Algerian native (and U.S. Green Card holder) André, played by Jamel Debbouze, is having a really bad day--he's in major debt with a number of other small-time criminals in Paris and all of them seem to want their money right now.  Down on his luck and nearly out of time to make good on his payments by a deadline the next morning, André decides that life is not worth living any more...and, goes to the nearest bridge and prepares to end his life by jumping into a river...until a VERY leggy blonde nearby (Rie Rasmussen) decided that this morning would also be a good day to kill herself, so when the blonde jumps, André is forced to save the woman's life.  When they reach shore, the woman decides to pay her savior back by doing whatever he wants for the rest of the day, serving as a sort-of guardian angel for André as he attempts to find a way to use this inconvenience as a springboard to find the confidence to pay those freakin' gangsters back.

The production design and the cinematography of "Angel-A" are so gorgeous that, on their own, you won't be disappointed with the work of the filmmakers.  But, it doesn't hurt that the story is always moving, and at a zippy 90 minutes, "Angel-A" rides the energy of the performances of the two leads to explore personal issues without losing focus on the fantasy of the whole affair.  Debbouze is excellent, manic, completely crazy and passionate throughout; Rasmussen is a decent foil, even if she looks strangely just like Besson's ex-wife Milla Jovovich, leggy, blonde, great eyes, only decent acting talent but nice onscreen charisma.  They are the only real performers in the film, but that works well, all the way to a slightly-questionable ending.

I'm excited to see what happens for this movie here in the States; hopefully, it will be picked up and see the light of day. 

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09