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By Mark Bell | September 1, 2013

Ron Santiano’s A.R.C. Angel: Kalina is definitely a showpiece project, one to illustrate style and tone as opposed to tell a compelling story, which is why there’s little I can deliver here beyond the surface details. Kalina (Akari Kalai) is an avenging A.R.C. Angel, who appears to take (and disregard) orders from an officer (Robert Factor) safely hidden away while Kalina walks the streets. When her prey, Alexander (Alex Benjamin), presents himself, we are treated to a battle between A.R.C. Angel and vampire.

And that’s as deep as the story goes in its short running time, which is not terribly surprising considering the project bills itself as a “promo” for something bigger. Thus, this was always meant to give just a taste, so let’s take a look at the impression it leaves.

For one, the costuming is well-done, and the fight choreography is solid. It definitely has the over-the-top feel of a comic book come to life, and the tone feels like they’re aiming for something along the lines of a Batman meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets… a superhero who has to report back to a superior officer or handler who may or may not be religious in origin. In all these ways it works.

Where it stumbles is its insistence on lens flares and fog (or mist, or smoke, or whatever that stuff is). I get that the compositional framing can be a little uninteresting in the main environment where the fighting occurs (a parking lot), and I understand that lighting effects and well-placed smoke or fog can really give a strong stylistic impression, but this is overkill. The effects go beyond “scene enhancement,” and not in a flattering way. If I saw this, and I was looking at it as someone who was interested in bankrolling a superhero project, I’d probably be intrigued enough by the Kalina character to want to know more about the story, but I wouldn’t be so attached to the visual style, which is strong in some compositional aspects and enhanced by proper editing flow, but also looks like someone is abusing a new effects plugin.

In the end, the narrative is definitely of the familiar variety in the broad strokes, but we also don’t get enough of it to see where it might offer up something more unique. The acting and tone are fine, the action sequence accomplished, but the film goes off the rails with the lighting effects and smoggy environmental ambiance. If those extra elements had been more relaxed or subtle, the film would be solid, but they actually made things worse for the film.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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