In "Death of an Angel," an excruciatingly slow thriller, a woman priest named Grace (Bonnie Bedelia) comes face to face with the dark side of her faith. Her daughter, crippled in an auto accident, decides to turn to a Mexican faith healer, Angel (Nick Mancuso), who preaches from a hill in the desert, his basic prop being a crucifix that bleeds.
But Don Tarjetas, a big, bad ranchero who smuggles Mexicans across the border, doesn't like the faith healer -- he thinks he's turning the flock against him. Grace decides to help Angel out, not only because he's the key to getting her daughter back, but also because she's become intrigued by him.
Shaman or snake-oil salesman?
There might be something in tracing how an uptight Episcopal woman, trained in theology, got turned on by a manic illiterate visionary, but director Petru Popescu never gets very deeply into it.
Instead, he tries to rev up the movie with conventional thriller elements, shot with even more conventional suspense techniques, and it doesn't help that the score (by Peter Myers) seems to have been lifted from an old episode of "Ironside."
This is one of those movies in which the whores are all cackling whores and the villains are all sneering villains and the blind man is an oldendcol lecher named Ciego (meaning "Blind"). Bedelia plays stiffly with a lot of jut-jawed determination; Mancuso, the next John Saxon, is too histrionic by half -- you keep waiting for him to turn into a werewolf.
"Death of an Angel" started out in a workshop at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, where somebody seems to have had the bright idea to bring it to the screen. Well, as the Sundance Kid himself said, "You just keep thinking, Butch; that's what you're good at."
Death of an Angel, at the K-B Cerberus, is rated PG.