Angel of Death is a 2009 film compiled from a miniseries produced for Crackle TV, starring stuntwoman Zoë Bell as Eve, an assassin for the Chicago mob. The screenplay was written by Ed Brubaker, known to me primarily for his work in Marvel comic books. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but normally “web original” would inspire even less confidence in me than “made for TV” or “direct to video” would. Further, while I thought Brubaker was a decent comic book writer, he wasn’t one where I’d automatically pick up anything he wrote, and it’s not like I ever said “Hey, this guy should write a movie”.
But Crackle and YouTube both feature it fairly prominently among their selections; well, it was made for Crackle, they would. And Hulu kept recommending it as “highly rated by Hulu users.” Then IMDb started getting into the act, based on other things I’d watched and rated (though this is sometimes pretty spurious as well.) So, seeing as it was only an hour and seventeen minutes long, I figured why not? All I’ve got to lose is a small amount of time.
Angel of Death is a straightforward action movie, with something of a grindhouse element to it. While it’s not as over-the-top as some of those films, there’s still a fair amount of blood (it’s about an assassin, so this isn’t exactly surprising), and it’s not exactly a deep film. Some films try to layer in meanings, some just give you a blonde woman carving a path of destruction through bad guys.
Looking for a treatise on the meaning of life… hmmm… nope. Not here.
The plot isn’t complex, even by action movie standards. Eve (Bell) is a hired killer, and on her most recent mission, things go south, and she sustains a pretty horrific injury. As she recovers, she starts showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder, hallucinating images of one of her victims calling for justice. Bell has only had a small number of roles as an actress herself (as opposed to her stunt work), and this isn’t going to establish her as a top-flight actress or anything. But she does a credible job as the cocky amoral assassin who finds herself, against her will and expectations, no longer able to remain amoral. Eve’s handler/lover Graham (Brian Poth) and her junior partner Franklin (Justin Huen) try to act as stabilizing influences on her, but soon Eve is on a campaign of revenge against the people who hired her, taking them out one by one.
Does this kind of suitcase ever get used in movies for anything legal?
Being what it is, Angel of Death doesn’t feature a lot of veteran crew members, and this includes director Paul Etheredge. Still, he does a reasonable job, with camera angles that are planned well, and fight sequences that are fun and reasonably straightforward; there’s some of the jump-cut action that’s so trendy nowadays, but the fights are pretty easy to follow and are entertaining to watch. This is a good thing, as there really isn’t anything else to the film. There is a comic-book motif to some of the scene transitions (as pictured above), but while this could have been left out without losing a thing, it’s not really distracting either.
Most of the actors have only a few prior screen roles. They aren’t really given much room to stretch themselves here, but nobody’s performance is cringe-worthy. The weak point is probably Huen as Franklin, who never quite seemed to fit in his scenes, but this may have been a quality of the writing as much as the acting. Poth is appropriately in control and concerned as Graham, and Vail Bloom is slick as the entirely-too-polished Regina Downes. Lucy Lawless has a small role as Eve’s neighbor, and while the role is ultimately pointless, it’s entertaining for the short while it endures. Probably the most veteran actor here is Doug Jones — the man behind the costumes and effects for Abe Sapien (Hellboy) and the Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four) — and without having his entire body, personality and sometimes voice overwritten by CGI, he’s actually pretty good as the nervous, drug-using mob doctor. One role I can’t decide where I stand with regards to the actor is that of Cameron Downes, played by Jake Abel. Abel was 21 at the time of filming, and looks about 14. He under-emotes through most of the film, and when he gets angry it’s difficult to say he’d be more angry at a rogue killer than at a dropped ice cream cone. But his character is a knife nut, a real psychopath, and whether it’s by accident or by design, this portrayal makes Cameron Downes more intimidating. I’m unsure whether this is good acting or just very appropriate bad acting, but it works. On the balance, I’m inclined to give Abel the benefit of the doubt and say this was deliberate, as he does give some creepy smiles when appropriate.
You only have to look at that smarmy face to know he’s got a switchblade hidden somewhere.
Angel of Death isn’t a great film, not even by the unpretentious standards of action movies. I’m reasonably sure that in a month’s time, it will have worked its way out of my memory. But for a fun, thoughtless way to kill an hour it’s pretty good. It owes more than a little to Tarantino’s work (and Franklin’s cell phone tone will sound familiar to Tarantino fans, in acknowledgement of this), and I think most people who are fans of Tarantino’s films will enjoy this. Just don’t go in expecting anything special.
The film may be viewed here: http://www.crackle.com/c/angel-of-death.