Angel – A (2007 dir. Luc Besson
Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen
Luc Besson has spent the last 8 years writing and producing a series of successful action flicks like the “Taxi” and “Transporter” films. Though this made him stinkin’ rich, as a director he must have felt the need to put his eye behind the camera. So Besson’s returning to directing was 2005’s “Angel-A” which was only released in North America in 2007. Unfortunately it’s a surprisingly dull and talky romantic comedy/crime fantasy saved only by its eye-popping black and white visual design.
Jamel Debbouze as Andre is a good protagonist. We’ve seen him in “Amelie” and “Days of Glory”, he’s a little sparkplug with a wide range of quirky-cute facial expressions and physical comedy that makes for a great character actor. He is teamed up with the typical Luc Besson heroine, the complete opposite in leading ladies - a tall, blonde, out of this world-hot supermodel Rie Rasmussen playing his angelic slave Angela.
Andre and Angela meet on the edge of a bridge about to commit suicide in the River Seine. Instead Andre saves Angela, who is so grateful for his generosity, she owes the rest of her life to him, and so becomes his own personal slave. Wasn’t this a plot from an episode of the “Flintstones”? Definitely “I Dream of Jeanie”. The film turns into a buddy flick, when they tour Paris ridding Andre of his enemies one-by-one. An intriguing set up considering the unique pairing of Debbouze and Rasmussen, unfortunately the execution and pay off is uncreative and predictable.
This is not “Leon” or “La Femme Nikita”. Angela helps Andre get out of debt by prostituting herself to rich men in clubs to pay his debtors. Conflict between the two arises when Andre chides her for degrading herself for his benefit. But Angela seems confident in her abilities to seduce men and retain her superiority over them. This continues for most of the film. They eventually fall in love, but when Angela reveals to Andre her true reason for being Andre’s hopes of finding his soul mate are dashed.
Besson had an opportunity to create a unique working relationship between the two. When they start working together there needed to be a quirky cleverness to how Angela helps Andre. So by settling on sex as her mechanism for change it’s a let down, and the film becomes tediously predictable.
Besson’s visuals are up to his usual high standards. His trademark anamorphic extreme wide angle frames look great in black and white. In the bright exteriors everything in the frame is in focus and thus having the actor in close to the camera pops them out of the screen.
Besson needed some grade-A action to counterpoint his lengthy stretches of dialogue. Unfortunately nothing is revealed in these Parisian café conversations except pretty pictures and nothing we couldn’t have predicted by simply looking at the poster or watching the trailer. A disappointing return for Mr. Besson.