Angel-A

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“Emotional Battle Angel.”

Andre (Debbouse) is at the end of his tether, owing large amounts of money to at least three separate gangs. He decides to end it all by leaping off a Parisian bridge into the Seine below, but is beaten to it by the tall, leggy blonde, Angela (Rasmussen, who you may remember in a bathroom stall with Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in the opening of Femme Fatale). His suicide forgotten, he jumps in to save her, and as they sit, dripping on the river-bank she vows that she will repay his selfless act by taking care of him. This may not be quite the way he expects; for example, she hijacks a negotiation with one of the mobsters to whom Andre owes money, marches upstairs and emerges not long afterwards, the debt apparently forgiven and with tens of thousands in bonus cash. Just as important as resolving his pecuniary problems are the emotional ones which plague Andre, and Angela is perhaps even more adept at addressing those: his lack of self-confidence, trust issues, an inability to give or receive love and so on. She sees the good person who is buried very deeply, and slowly teases it out. For her name is almost literal: she’s an angel, sent down to save Andre from himself.

After six years where he was involved in writing a dozen film and producing even more, this was Besson’s first film as director since The Messenger. Nice to see him back, and the decision to shoot the entire film in black-and-white adds to the fairytale feel, though sometimes it feels more like a Calvin Klein commercial than anything else. The contrast between the 5’10” Rasmussen, towering over the 5’5″ Debbouse like an Amazon, is also unique, and it’s the former’s attitude that makes it qualify here, in a way reminiscent of Run Lola Run. Angela is as relentless as a force of nature, and will let nothing and no-one get in the way of her mission; in this way, she also reminds me of Leeloo in The Fifth Element, or even Mathilda from Leon.

In terms of action, it’s more understated than I’d like: Angela could certainly kick the ass of everyone else in the film, but never needs to get out of second gear. However, the emotional content of the film is considerable, never more than in a single shot that seems endless, where Angela makes Andre stare into a bathroom mirror and look at himself for, probably, the first time in his life. It’s a beautiful moment of impressive heartfelt exposure, laying bare Andre’s soul and exposing the human heart beating inside the scam artist. If not quite the badass-oriented remake of Wings of Desire I was hoping for, it proves very satisfactory and a unique romantic fantasy. I hope Besson doesn’t forget to showcase his own talents as a director more often in the future.

Dir: Luc Besson
Star: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine

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