August 5th, 2009

ANGEL OF DEATH (2009) **

Zoe Bell’s enthusiastic performance was one of the best things about Grindhouse.  She had a genuine charisma that made her really stand out from the pack of foxy females in the cast.  Since there hasn’t been a worthy straight-to-DVD female action heroine since Cynthia Rothrock hung up her black belt, Bell seemed like a natural to pick up the mantle.  Her first foray into the straight-to-DVD market, Angel of Death has it’s moments but is an ill-suited vehicle for the stuntwoman-turned-action heroine.


Bell plays a ruthless assassin who takes the assignment of offing some rich scumbag.  The job goes wrong and Bell ends up getting a knife stuck in her head.  She doesn’t really mind though and completes her assignment anyway.  After her fidgety doctor (Doug Jones from Pan’s Labyrinth) removes the knife from her skull, Bell begins having visions of her past victims who toment her into murdering her employer so they can have their revenge.


What made Bell’s performance in Grindhouse so great was that she was more or less playing herself and it looked like she was having a ball.  In Angel of Death, her character is bitter, morose and not very likable.  Since her personality doesn’t exactly fit her character, it’s hard to really root for her.


A big part of the movie’s problem is Ed Brubaker’s script.  He’s a big name in the comics field but he still has a thing or two to learn when it comes to writing a real movie.  The plotting is clunky, the dialogue is flat, and the characters are paper thin.  That’s okay in a comic book I guess but this is a movie we’re talking about here.  (Sure, it’s a straight-to-DVD movie but still.)  The director (some hack) even throws in some cheesy looking comic bookish paneling every now and then to emphasize the fact that the flick is more or less just some half-assed wannabe comic book.  The result is pretty weak.


I don’t think all that hokum would’ve been so bad had the movie had a bunch of action.  Sadly, Bell gets precious few opportunities to show off her Kung Fu prowess.  To add insult to injury, most of the gun battles have Made-for-TV written all over them.  Also, the whole subplot where Zoe sees dead people doesn’t really work.  I mean what the Hell is this, The Sixth Sense Meets Bloodfist 6?  Another thing that really seals the movie’s fate is the pacing, which is all over the place.  Although it runs just a scant 78 minutes, it feels a lot longer than that.


Angel of Death does have a few brief glimpses of fun though.  In addition to the knife-in-the-head thing, there is a great scene where a gangster holds his father’s wake at a strip club.  Had the movie contained a few more moments of inspiration like that, it could’ve been worthwhile.


Lucy Lawless, who Bell stunt doubled for on Xena:  Warrior Princess also shows up in a small role.