Returning to the director's chair after eight years, Luc Besson pairs a diminutive comedian with a stunning Teuton in this French rom com

Angel-a

on May 25, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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Luc Besson's first directorial effort since 1999's Joan of Arc is an amuse bouche , offering a black-and-white Paris that anyone who appreciates beautiful cityscapes will relish. Those who prefer flesh to stone can savor the statuesque Danish-American Rie Rasmussen ( Femme Fatale ), who infuses the title character with plenty of corporeal flavor. Meanwhile, the diminutive Jamel Debbouze, known for his comedic roles, contributes clownish pathos to a guardian angel story that cheerfully evokes oddball romances, noir crime flicks and Capra-esque redemption.

Petty scammer and fabulist Andre is introduced while being shaken down by three enforcers. He owes lots of money around town, and one gangster, who dangles him off the Eiffel Tower, promises he won't survive the night unless he pays up. Andre seeks help at the American embassy (he has a green card) and a police station before deciding to end it all. Poised to leap into the Seine, he sees a leggy blonde in a black micro dress with the same idea. She jumps, and he follows to rescue her. There's humor here that stems as much from the unlikely pair's personality differences as their physical disparity. Andre is a sentimental, ambitious loser; Angela is hard-nosed and practical. She's a profane savior intent on completing her mission, while he frets about keeping his dignity and morality in tact.

Angel-A works as a romantic comedy about opposites meeting cute and desperate in the City of Light, whose bridges and facades are nicely rendered by cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. Besson also provides cultural commentary by bringing together a self-assured, blond European with a frazzled, displaced male of Arabic extraction. He's blessed with the ideal performers for scoring on both levels. Though not strikingly original, this empowering fairytale can be seen as the smaller, adult precursor to Besson's family fantasy Arthur and the Invisibles , which was made after but released before Angel-A .
Distributor: Sony Classics
Cast: Rie Rasmussen, Jamel Debbouze, Gilbert Melki and Serge Riaboukine
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Luc Besson
Genre: Romantic comedy; French-language, subtitled
Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running time: 89 min.
Release date: May 25, 2007 NY/LA
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