Wow, that `Mesrine' was a great film. In fact, so was `A Prophet' and `Cell 211'. Hollywood is not the only film machine that likes to jump on a bandwagon and produce films similar to those that have already been a success. Europe is producing some of the best crime/prison dramas ever and `Angels of Evil' is the first that I have seen that suggests this is one gravy train that is grinding to a lumpy halt.
Of all the recent crim dramas, `Angels' is closet to `Mesrine' as it follows real life Italian criminal Renato Vallanzasca in and out of prison. He becomes a notorious criminal as famous for his audacious escapes, as his crimes. However, unlike `Mesrine' that had the powerhouse performance of Vincent Cassel at its centre, `Angels' only has the lukewarm presence of Kim Rossi Stuart - an actor who appears to be weasely enough to be a criminal, but perhaps not the leader he is supposed to be. The plot of the film is almost beat for beat like other true crime stories; gang gets together, gang members get killed during crime, remaining gang are jailed. Taking as individual scenes some of the set pieces are excellent, especially the heist gone wrong. However, as a whole the film fails to engage.
Character wise you never get a handle on Vallanzasca. He is not particularly sympathetic and is a borderline sociopath. Mesrine may have been the same, but that film gave him enough back story to make you sympathise at least a little; `Angels' does not. By lacking empathy with the characters you get a mash up of intelligent European crime drama with the hokum that Guy Ritchie used to churn out. At no point is `Angels' that low brow, but it is certainly not as clever as it thinks.
The gritty camera work by director Michele Placido is one of the positives with `Angels' and makes the BluRay worth watching, but it also highlights some of the bad wigs on offer.