I've been a big Luc Besson fan since I saw The Professional in the theater over 10 years ago. Which is the best action film this side of Die Hard, incredible action scenes mixed with a beautiful story and characters you fall in love with. When The Fifth Element came out a few years later, he was cemented as one of my all time favorites. He's been pretty hit-and-miss since then, my wife and I are the only ones I know of that enjoyed The Messenger; his kid's flick Arthur and the Incredibles has a few good moments, but a lot of bad ones as well. In that time he's also become the Jerry Bruckheimer of French films, constantly producing high-quality action films.
I was excited to see the trailer for Angel-A, it looked like Besson was getting back to his roots; low-key action-drama, with two-characters in Paris, filmed in startling black & white. The film came and went pretty quickly in theaters, never playing anywhere near us, and I'd read nothing but bad or mediocre reviews for it. But when it came out on DVD I had to see it immediately, simply for Besson.
Jamel Debbouze, the one armed guy from Amelie, (and he really only has one arm,) plays the lead character of Andre. When we meet him, he's being threatened by some low-level thugs, he's got a problem, he owes a lot of money to a really bad guy. This is a fairly typical beginning for an action film, but after that it goes where no film I've ever seen before. And isn't that the important thing? Something original, most movies I feel like I've seen it all before; when something truly different comes along, most people don't enjoy it.
Andre has a few days to get the money together, with no prospect of getting out of the country and no way to come up with the money, he decides to commit suicide. He says a quick prayer before he jumps off of one of Paris' many beautiful bridges; suddenly a beautiful girl appears on the bridge next to him. She leaps into the water, and his mission turns from suicide to rescue. He drags this beautiful, bleached-blond, long-legged creature from the water. They instantly hit it off in a quirky, bickering sort-of-way. He asks her what a beautiful girl like her could possibly be so sad about? And before he knows it, she's offered to follow him around, doing whatever he wants.
But from the start, she's in control and is soon fixing his life in surprising ways; she digs up loads of money and more importantly the respect he feels he deserves. They fall in love in an unconventional way; with powers way-beyond-their-control ready to tear them apart. It's fairly obvious who this girl is, and she comes right out and tells Andre' about halfway through the film, but I'll play devil's advocate and not give it away.
Now Angel-A is nowhere near the perfection that The Professional aka Leon is. But it's a film well worth seeing, if you're into Luc Besson films or ones that are outside of the norm. It's a gorgeous film, you really couldn't do much better than Besson's B&W photography of Paris. The two leads are very charismatic, and have a great chemistry together. Rie Rasmussen, who I'm guessing is usually a model, is an Amazonian vision as Angel-A. The film gets a little cheesy towards the end, but that's my only minor complaint. Otherwise it's a very fun, cool ride.