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Angels of Evil [DVD] (2010)
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Set in Italy in the 1970s, Angels of evil is the true story of the Italian underworld s most infamous outlaw. A criminal by age nine, Renato Vallanzasca grew up to become the country s most notorious mobster before the age of 27. While Vallanzasca lived by his own professional code of honour - he claimed that he never shot anyone in the back - he and his gang took out their enemies and wrested control of the Milan underworld with a string of high profile robberies, kidnappings and murders. In the process, he captivated a celebrity starved public and earned the nickname il bel Renè - for his devilish charm and his handsome face. Arrested multiple times, his daring escapes from prison enraged the government, angered his rivals and fed his legend. From the director of Romanzo Criminale Starring Kim Rossi Stuart (Romanzo Criminale) & Filippo Timi (The American, Vincere)
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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.
Whilst at Reform School he became well educated in the life skills one requires to take a life of crime really seriously. As well as learning how to annoy guards in a maximum security prison, he also develops what can only be described as silver tongue with the lucky ladies and a taste of finely executed diction. In short he has rules bordering on the sociopath and not very much to like about him. He is played rather well by Kim Rossi Stuart. We first see him in prison in 1981 getting some extra curricular kicking from the guards, a theme that reoccurs throughout the film.
When he is out he has some henchman including his best friend Enzo ( Filippo Timi), and just like girls they too just wanna have fun. Their version of fun involves bank robbery, shootings, robbery and kidnappings. The proceeds of which get spent on women with questionable morals and drugs of questionable origin and lots of Alfa Romeos.
There are great period details, the cars and the clothes (seventies fashion Italian style - magnifico!), the music is a modern soundtrack, but it actually really works. Where it has issues is around Vallanzasla and his crew. They are all rather incompetent in that childish way that makes them look as if shoe lace tying had yet been on their `to be learnt' schedule. Vallanzasla as head honcho lacks warmth, when he cries it is for his loss and the irony that he uses starts off by coming across as comedy, but ends as dysfunctional enemy of society. Fair play to director Michele Placido as that is how it plays out on screen but a few scenes after you actually start to find the little cuss less than endearing.
Still it runs at 125 minutes and I enjoyed nigh on all of it, there is some nasty violence and make up had to get their fake blood bottles out on more than one occasion, but it isn't gratuitous. A lot of it is down to incompetence or stupidity, which is a bit of relief from all the slick crime capers that normally get churned out, these guys even have to push start the get-away car at one point, an Alfa, and they wear stockings to rob banks, which I thought was marvellous. It also oozes style as it is Italian, except for the stockings on head bits,and you would expect that and as far as it goes this is another well above average film to come out of Europe in recent years. If you like Meserine you will like this but the French effort probably has the edge, this though is stand out in its own way.
I had never heard of the central character before seeing this, but he was an unusual and dedicated criminal and I can see why he attracted the interest and dedication it must have taken to make this film.
It's an extremely impressive piece of film making and I will happily watch this again.
Period piece set in the 70s. Should win some awards. (Actually I wish they'd set the new Bond films in the period they were written). I'd watch anything by this director ndf more than once !!