One Fallen 'Angel'
"Angel-A" is counterfeit art-house chic writ large -- a French film that fails to produce the ineffable charms of the yesteryear movies it brazenly imitates.
Directed by French filmmaker and one-man industry Luc Besson, best known in the United States for his films "The Fifth Element" and "The Professional," the movie's goofy caper, in which two-bit street punk André (Jamel Debbouze) finds moral redemption courtesy of a tall, miniskirted model (Rie Rasmussen), fails to elicit its intended poignancy.
André, a Frenchman of North African heritage who claims to have earned an American green card through a lottery, is in hock to various gangsters. Attempting suicide from a Paris bridge, he finds himself saving the aforementioned woman, who's also floundering in the Seine. In gratitude, she offers to help him with his problems with the hoods.
The movie intermixes B-movie gangsterism with arty romance, clearly invoking the French New Wave movies François Truffaut did so beautifully in the 1960s, such as "Shoot the Piano Player," and later romantic/gangster cult films such as Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 "Diva." But this movie's black-and-white cinematography and its scenic shots of Paris bridges and back alleys are too self-consciously designed to resonate with sincerity. As André, Debbouze is a bumbling comedic cliche with his constantly flustered air. And the ending of this 2005 film -- Rasmussen's flurry of celestial wings -- is in sight from the get-go.
-- Desson Thomson
Angel-A R, 91 minutes Contains violence, sexual scenes and profanity. In French with subtitles. At AMC Loews Shirlington and AMC Loews Dupont.