The eager throngs maintaining a round-the-clock vigil at area theaters can stop now: "Avenging Angel," the sequel to "Angel," has arrived. Since Angel was a "high school student by day, hooker by night," you'd hardly think she'd have time for anything else. So the surprise of "Avenging Angel" is that she's now a law student and gun-toting vigilante as well. Who keeps this woman's calendar?
Det. Hugh Andrews (Robert Lyons) has a date with an Angel, and sure enough, he's going straight to heaven -- a quartet of heavily armed baddies (including that always appealing thug, Tim Rossovich) find him at the business end of a shotgun, and before he drowns in red-dyed Karo syrup, he whispers, "Angel." He's the one, you see, who put her on the straight and narrow, so Angel returns to the street in search of revenge. Out with the designer pantsuit ensembles, in with tank tops and vinyl miniskirts.
In her new avocation she's joined by four old buddies, "street people" of the genus "colorful." Yo-Yo Charlie (Steven M. Porter) takes time off from his sidewalk comedy routine to serve as driver; Solly (Susan Tyrrell), a lesbian landlord with a heart of gold (she's taken in an infant abandoned by his mother, a prostitute), provides the car, an ancient hearse; Kit Carson (the tic-ridden Rory Calhoun), complete with fringed jacket and six-shooters, provides the firepower; and Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl), an itinerant storyteller who bathes his audiences with (what else?) glitter, comes along for comic relief.
Overall, "Avenging Angel" looks as if it was shot in a week with a Super-8 camera, on a budget that even these street people would find parsimonious. The movie suffers from startling lapses in continuity -- one small example is that, though the cop is named "Andrews," he's later called "Andrew." The action sequences and car chases have a slipshod, casual feel that makes even "Hardcastle and McCormick" seem polished, and all the gunplay looks fake: Why carry a shotgun when your victims all have charges conveniently strapped on under their shirts? Director Robert Vincent O'Neil doesn't even bother to make a hole in the shirts of his gunshot victims. When a production can't even afford to waste a shirt, you know you're in trouble.
Betsy Russell made a promising debut as the Little League Joan Collins of "Private School for Girls" (her seduction of Matthew Modine was the most titillating soft-core in recent memory), and she again suggests she's better than her material. At times she has the same eye-rolling, jaw-slacking ingenuousness as Ally Sheedy. But O'Neil seems more interested in her body. In an exploitation movie like "Avenging Angel," that's fine -- except O'Neil then chastises us with a lot of the half-baked moralism about sexual exploitation that marred "Angel."
"Avenging Angel" has its moments -- it gets in some good gory fun near the end, when Angel's angels have to exchange the corpse of the capo's son for the infant, whom he's kidnaped (he doesn't realize his son is already dead). And there's a short shot of the smiling infant playing with the barrel of the gun the kidnaper has trained on him, as if it were the newest gewgaw in his playpen. Unfortunately, two nice effects can't save a movie this relentlessly slapdash. When some spectators ask Charlie to perform the yo-yo trick, "walking the dog," he complies, then quips, "the dog just died." And indeed, it has.
Avenging Angel, at area theaters, is rated R for nudity, violence and considerable profanity.