Angel-A Made in: France Language: French Director: Luc Besson Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen Year: 2005
Synopsis: Fast-talking, slow-thinking Andrè (Jamel Debbouze) is a small time scam artist bumbling about in Paris. He owes more than fifty-thousand euro to an assortment of crime bosses and seedy characters who promise irreparable bodily injury if he doesn't pay up by midnight.
Low on friends and out of luck, Andrè decides to take his own life by jumping off a bridge and into the Seine River (even though the bridge doesn't seem high enough). While leaning over the ledge he suddenly finds that he's not alone. Oddly enough, Angela
a gorgeous blonde of supermodel proportions, appears out of nowhere and apparently has the same idea.
She plunges into the river but Andrè jumps after her and saves her (or so he thinks). As the two embark on an adventure wandering the city of lights, it soon becomes clear that Angela's sudden appearance was no accident.
She is in fact (surprise), Andrè's guardian angel sent from above.
However, helping inept Andrè out of his financial trouble is only part of the plan. Angela is here to help him peel away the layers of self-hatred and self-deception that have caused and plagued his pathetic existence.
The Good: Shot in black and white, Luc Besson, like many French directors before him, turns Paris itself into one of the film's greatest characters. The city simply looks magical in many scenes, and most of the digital effects are either subtle or seamless. A technologically modern film in every sense of the word, Angel-A has a look and feel of simple elegance, albeit with an edge.
Danish model/actress Rie Rasmussen fits the mold when it comes to Luc Besson's affinity for casting unusually leggy women, and she has no trouble looking the part of a chain-smoking, naughty angel with a flair for kinkiness. And even though French was not her first language (like I could tell) her strong charisma and acting do much to carry the film.
Much credit also goes to Jamel Debbouze's Andrè, who garners sympathy for a character any one of you would despise in real life. In many scenes we're glad to see that he gets what he deserves, yet we root for this underdog to win.
Angel-A is a well-written film, and I'm not just saying that because French words sound nice. The conversations between Andrè and Angela, which are lengthy in comparison to most other films, draw you in immediately. Words flow smoothly in this movie, and the frequent philosophical musings on life and love add plenty of substance.
The Bad: The very end. In the final scene between Andrè and Angela, Luc Besson just has to impose his secular worldview on us at the last minute. It's unnecessary and disappointing, and granted it's not nearly as sacrilegious as Besson's The Messenger, it is quite hokey. Fortunately, though, it doesn't kill the whole movie.
Who would like this film: I'll take a chance and recommend this movie to a broad, general adult audience. Nothing here was over my head, and if I get it, I'm sure you will too. Overall, Angel-A is a fun, feel-good movie that is both genuinely touching and gleefully naughty (but not shocking). It's a modern-age fairy tale that will make you think about life, and the deep sense of love that we need not only from others, but to give ourselves.