Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#78: Angel-A

The fantasy genre has never been a favorite and it always takes an extra effort on my part to pick one up. But given that this was a Luc Besson movie, I didn't think it would be a compromise of any sort to select this one. After all Besson, a seasoned filmmaker with gems such as Leon and La Femme Nikita to his credit, was to me a filmmaker who knew how to mix substance with style.Angel-A was a movie he made in 2005, much after he had stamped his mark as someone who would be taken seriously around the globe. And so he thought perhaps this was the time to have some fun, be a bit casual with a story, take a few liberties with the script and see if he got away with it.

It's the story of Andre (Jamel Debbouze), a fraudster down on his luck and 50,000 Euros in debt and about to commit suicide. He runs into Angela (Rie Rasmussen), a tall blonde, who is also on the verge of taking her own life. The two start talking and there's a sense of camaraderie that builds as they walk through the streets of Paris devising ways to get rid of Andre's creditors. Andre's scepticism steadily wears out and Angela is able to help him rather easily. She infuses a sense of purpose in his life and can honestly pinpoint where he's going wrong in his dealings.

The problem with the movie is that after this first part is set up, you're expecting something to happen and the twist that comes across is not so much a twist as much as a mere insignificant detour towards the second half. If the movie begins on a scale of 10, it ends on a scale of 2. Debbouze as the weak-willed Andre fits the bill perfectly while Rasmussen seems to try too hard. Her definitive long legs contribute only so much to her acting and that doesn't carry the movie far. The black and white tinge of the movie, however, is trademark Besson and is a feast for the eyes in some of the scenes. His old collaborator D.O.P. Thierry Arbogast brings back some of the magic from Leon.

Angel-A is nowhere near Besson's best work. But he succeeds in maintaining a keen sense of anticipation in the viewer's mind about the next twist in the movie. It's another matter that the climax barely lives up to it all but Andre's helplessness merits attention and the drama around it nearly draws the curtains with an applause. Any other filmmaker would've screwed this up even further. Besson atleast takes the path of least damage and makes you believe that the time spent watching Angela-A wasn't entirely wasted.