It is a real shame that the recently departed Anthony Quinn will forever have “Avenging Angelo” serving as his career coda. Certainly he had higher aspirations but there is comfort in the fact that this was never released to theaters and therefore will not lodge in the public consciousness. Filmed two years ago just before his passing, this becomes the second straight-to-rental release this year for Sylvester Stallone. Some people may feel his career is heading downhill, but like many others I’m guessing he has already reached the valley and may be coasting to a stop. We’ll withhold judgment until seeing him in this summer’s “Spy Kids 3-D”.
For the second time in his career Stallone takes charge in a comedy as a mobster. “Oscar” was an over the top and under whelming farce and it was so dismal that it incited the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to copyright the name of their identically labeled trophy to prevent further damage to the name—OK, maybe not. Anyway the good news is that this film is better, but considering the very low bar set by “Oscar” and the fact that it barely surpasses the mark it is not necessarily a bragging argument.
In “Avenging Angelo” Sly plays Frankie, a life long body guard for the title character (Quinn), a mobster who can feel his time is almost up (probably because he has Frankie as his body guard) and begins to put his affairs in order, which includes filming a message to a daughter he gave up years ago. Jennifer (Madeline Stowe) knows nothing of this past, as she was given to a childless couple who were also granted an estate and a huge stipend to adopt Angelo’s girl. He and Frankie have watched Jennifer grow up from afar to become an emotional mess in a loveless marriage with low self-esteem—but she has a really big house. Angelo has Frankie vow that he will care for the daughter following his demise.
Angelo must have known his protector was in possession of dubious skills. One night at dinner Frankie exits the restaurant to haggle over a parking ticket and this allows an assassin to enter and rub out Angelo. Not to be dismissively critical, but even I know not to allow the mobster you are guarding to take a window seat while he eats his clams. Now Frankie has to go to Jennifer to both deliver Angelo’s message and to protect her from being the target of the competition.
That night, after running her cheating husband off, Stallone drops by with his video revelation and the announcement that he is her new protector. Jennifer is so elated at the news that she does the only sane thing and passes out from too much Jack Daniels. The next day she awakens to learn the entire story and decides to storm off for therapy shopping. At the store she realizes Frankie was telling the truth when she is almost killed by an assassin who turns the Ferragamo boutique to confetti, but Frankie jumps into the scene to her aid, but only after she has already taken cover behind a display of espadrilles.
It is around this time that it dawns on those watching that this movie was intended to be a comedy. Director Martyn Burke fails to mix the drama and humor, instead playing the mob story line straight hoping to use it as a set-up for the comedy, except that the comedy undermines the dramatic scenes and therefore the comedy fails to deliver laughs. Instead of light hearted action like “Lethal Weapon” or hardboiled action leavened with comedy like “The Sopranos”, Burke tries to have it both ways and he fails twice. Imagine somebody pitching a sequel to a Martin Scorsese mob picture as a comedy, “Goodfellas 2: Junk in the Trunk”. This schizophrenic thought process is evident with the trailers on the DVD. The trailer for the United States makes the film appear as a dark action piece, while the European trailer sells this as a comedy, even making it look somewhat funny.
But trust me, this is not funny. For instance one evening as she sleeps a hit man visits Jennifer’s home but Frankie dispatches the man before she hears a sound. She awakens as he is trying to hide the body but he is almost exposed by the flatulence of the corpse in an extended scene that grows from uncomfortable to outright painful to watch. Does anyone in Hollywood over the age of eight still think that fart jokes are funny? (You “South Park” writers can put your hands down.) A later episode has Jennifer encountering an aging mobster who beckons her with a reference to his “baloney-pony”. Most astounding to behold was the moment when the helpless Jennifer decides suddenly to turn the tables on their enemies and to go seduce the don who wants her eliminated. To accomplish this we watch Stallone teach Madeline Stowe how to walk seductively—again, Stallone teaches her how to strut seductively. It is best not to contemplate it and move on.
One portion that I did enjoy was the montage sequence involving a date with the book author. I always savor those moments onscreen when multi-million dollar stars are reduced to performing those pedestrian tasks that are commonplace for the rest of us, and here we have Stallone tending to the grounds keeping. With a musical track we flash between shots of Stowe on a lavish luncheon while Sly is humbled doing yard work and mowing the grass. The man who has been trained to handle all types of firearms and even seemed natural driving a semi-hauler in “Over the Top” looked completely lost having to push a Briggs & Stratton across the lawn.
The sad thing is if Burke had concentrated on the comedic angle he could have had a decent film instead of vacillating back and forth. Some of the scenes showed promising signs of entertainment, but then things would veer back to the poker face treatment of the crime story. Not a good idea for a “comedy”.
Can’t get enough DVD? Talk DVDs in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>