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March 5, 2010
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March 5, 2010

DVD REVIEW: ANGEL OF DEATH

Ed Brubaker hits the not so big screen in this hitwoman noir story.


BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $16.99
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
Making of documentary
Zoe Bell screen test
Writing Brubaker documentary

Stunt coordinator documentary


THE PITCH


Hey! Do you like Crank, Bangkok Dangerous and every other movie about a hitman who wants out and has to take it to his/her employers? Then have I got a similar movie for you. With 100% more knives to the head!

 

THE HUMANS


Starring Zoe Bell, Jake Abel, Lucy Lawless and Brian Poth

Written by: Ed Yes, that Ed Brubaker

Directed by: Paul Etheredge

 

THE NUTSHELL

      

Zoe Bell gets her first headline role in this comic-like story of vengeance and violence. After Eve (Bell), the hitwoman for a prestigious crime family, is stabbed in the head, she starts seeing ghosts who send her on a crusade to avenge their dead souls by, you guessed it, killing those who gave the orders. Brutal mayhem ensues and Zoe Bell shows off her physical chops.

 

Zoe attempts to out-Meryl Meryl Streep.


THE LOWDOWN

       

There was something off about watching Angel of Death, it felt…episodic. I realize now that that is because it was, in fact, an online series which later had more footage reinserted. This explains everything. Its a series of endings and cliffhangers strung together in a way they were never meant to be.

        

So it is refreshing that, for the most part, Angel of Death works. It does nothing new for the crime/hitman genre, but what it does it does with some style at the very least. It is wholly and completely Ed Brubakers, with his same taste for gritty language that shouldnt work when its not in a comic, thankfully the actors arent trying so hard as to be super serious. It is a web series, after all!

        

“Yes, yes, I love Monty Python, too, but this, THIS is waaaay more than a flesh wound.”

The story is easy to predict: awesome hitwoman, things go wrong during a job, revenge is needed and yadda yadda. But its the flavor, the spice, that keeps Angel of Death watchable from minute one. That spice coming in the tough, blonde package of Zoe Bell, who is better known as that chick in Deathwish and that chick who had one line in Lost but everyone made such a big fucking deal about her anyway. Here, it is all about her. At least, in theory. Bell is constantly upstaged by her co-stars because shes first and foremost, a stuntwoman. She says the lines and can inflect but she rarely takes Eve out of tough hitgirl territory. I give her points for trying. But I remember more of Lucy Lawless, who has all of five minutes on screen than I do of Zoe Bells acting.

        

Luckily, Brubaker and his director, Paul Etheredge, are aware of Bells acting limitations and are sure to showcase the real reason shes here: whooping ass. A better actress could have played Eve deeper emotionally, but Bell is an accomplished stuntwoman, something nobody else is. She kicks, punches, tosses and tumbles and the best part, and this affects how the film is crafted, shes doing it all herself. No quick cuts, jarring close ups. Etheredge lets the camera sit back and film the films few, but well done, action moments. And we can tell itÂ’s Bell the entire time.

       

The action isnt furious and over the top, though it is quite in your face and harrowing. If a person walks away from a fight, they are probably limping out of it. Angel of Death establishes very quickly that our heroine, while extremely talented, is not indestructible. Its refreshing to see an action hero fallible and capable of bruising. When it comes time to throw down, the battles are in true Ed Brubaker style, each one unique, some filled with pithy lines, others simply savage. All are welcome because all are quite good.

         

While Angel of Deaths story is hey, Ive seen this before, it at least accomplishes that rare feat in film: giving us a bad guy we love to hate. Jake Abel as Cameron Downes is vicious, somewhat charming, foreign and it needs to be said, savage. What an asshole, and I love that I can say that about a villain. But is he the biggest bad there is? The film is certainly open to a sequel.

      


“See, it’s like, totally meta because you used to be my stunt double on Xena!”  


We can approach Eve as either crazy or guilty. In a world so grounded in reality, she sees her old victims (rather, she sees a girl who got killed who wasnt supposed to) and they tell her to do things. This is her conscience coming back to her. Its a maddening storytelling device because they want us to believe its the ghost of this girl telling Eve to wipe out the Downes mob family, but its actually Eves grief, her conscience. She just happened to need a knife to the head for it to come out. I doubt the nature of the supernatural, its a shaky visual metaphor that the film brings in and out as the story calls for it. Whenever Eve doesnt know what to do, the girl appears to tell her what to do.

        

Brubakers a gritty guy, and the film is no different. Its washed out, a bleak LA hellscape, full of darkened corridors and hot, sandy roads. Its everything a 16 year old loves: ass kicking women, blood, swearing, grittiness, more blood and even more grittiness. I would be all over this if I were 11 years younger, but as it stands, Angel of Death is a slightly above average actioner that at least revels in its grittiness and doesnt try to be anything more than it is. Im still not convinced on Zoe Bell the actress, but Zoe Bell the stuntwoman is aces. I hope she proves me wrong one of these days, but in the meantime, if she sticks to things like Angel of Death, shell land on her feet.

 

THE PACKAGE

         

Though premiering online, the film was shot as if it were going up on screen. The image is pristine, stylized, yes, but clear. And the soundtrack details every bone crunching hit.

      


“Can we wrap this up? I have a lightning bolt I have to steal.” 


The extras come in at the bottom of the ninth and help save this one. ItÂ’s an extensive behind the scenes look, from casting to filming that should make up and coming film-makers pause for a moment.


Beyond the standard making of, a 30 minute piece which is worth it alone are:      

Zoe Bell screen test: a quick short of Zoe having to do what Zoe is not comfortable doing: acting.

Casting Zoe: why the film-makers chose Ms. Bell among all the candidates.

Writing Brubaker: an intriguing look into the mind of comic legend and the filmÂ’s scribe.

My favorite, however, is the stunt doc, a fifteen or so minute look into the men and women who went the extra mile to deliver the quite good action and mayhem delivered on screen.

Eve also offers her killing tips for all of you wannabe assassins, too. Cute.


6.5 out of 10
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