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Avenging Angelo

Oh, Sly! As if it wasn't enough to make his ignominious direct-to-video debut with 1999's Eye See You (aka D-Tox), Sylvester Stallone's second not-quite-ready-for-multiplexes debacle, Avenging Angelo, has finally limped its way to DVD after a bit of a delay itself (it was filmed in 2001). And, dispiritingly, it's even worse than the last one. Concerning the plight of Frankie Delano, the trusted mob bodyguard of crime lord Angelo Allieghieri (Anthony Quinn), who's forced to protect the imperiled daughter, Jennifer (Madeleine Stowe), of his employer after the old man is bumped off, Angelo is a dark screwball comedy crossed with a revenge melodrama that exploits both genres with the finesse of a hyperactive child trying to play a Mozart sonata. The twist here is that Jennifer has no idea who her real father is, having been raised by a couple of wealthy parents on Long Island for her own protection. Up until now, Angelo and Frankie have acted as guardian angels for Jennifer, always a step behind should she get into any trouble. Now, with Angelo out of the way, the assassins are gunning for Jennifer, and only Frankie can protect her — which proves particularly difficult when she refuses to accept her own lineage. However, once that hurdle's cleared, a vengeful fire is sparked within Jennifer, which can only be sated by offing those responsible for her father's murder (hilariously, ahem, she wants to "wax" them). Faster than you can say Leon, Frankie begins offering her lessons on how to act the part of a cool, remorseless gangster moll, which of course leads to the two falling in love. (Turns out that ol' Frankie developed quite the crush on Jennifer after following her for nearly 40 years. Go figure!) Though purportedly directed by Martyn Burke, and written by Will Aldis and Steve Mackall, Avenging Angelo bears all the trademarks of the worst Stallone vehicles, indicating that the famously meddlesome star had some influence over the film's destiny; to wit: There are a number of extended flashback sequences scored to bland soft rock songs, strenuously "thoughtful" dialogue that falls far short of its mark, and an overly intrusive score from composer Bill Conti, who once gave Sly the enduringly triumphant theme with which he's so closely associated. But that was more than 25 years ago. Sly's glory has been fading for the last decade, which is a shame for such a seemingly intelligent actor capable of genuinely decent performances (though the film itself was a bit of a bust, Stallone's work in Copland was impressive nonetheless). Whatever redemptive qualities he saw in this vehicle are decidedly absent from the finished product, which not only further tarnishes Stallone's already damaged career, but rings out a sour note as the last onscreen appearance for Anthony Quinn, who is endlessly, and tastelessly, eulogized throughout the film and on the discs extras. Also taking a hit is Madeleine Stowe, who struggles badly with the shrilly written character of Jennifer. The film's most unintentionally hilarious moment: Sly patching up his own gun wound, which recalls the now legendary gunpowder cauterization from Rambo III. If only this film were that knowingly stupid. Columbia TriStar presents Avenging Angelo in both widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan transfers, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a director's commentary (wherein Mr. Burke favorably compares his film with, among other classic works, Turandot, The Searchers, and My Fair Lady), an interview with writers Aldiss and Mackall, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a trailer. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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