Angel of Death: Budget ass-kicking

Ed Brubaker is a wonderful comic book writer. His work on Criminal is about as good as they come, and his X-Men work isn’t bad either. He clearly has a great love for noir and all of it’s trappings: the one last job, femme fatales, and most importantly, the gig where it all goes wrong. A well done noir can utilize all these things and not even feel close to rote. Ed Brubaker is not the kind of guy that does rote.

That said, Angel of Death reveals the fatal flaw of any attempt at good noir: if you don’t have good actors, your hard boiled dialogue is going to sound dumb. No disrespect, but many of these line readings are head-smacking bad.  The production values aren’t the highest, but that comes with the territory of a web series sent straight to DVD. The premise involves a hit gone bad, where hitwoman Eve (Zoe Bell) botches a job and accidentally kills a 14 year old girl, but not before taking a knife in the head. Recovering, Eve is haunted by visions of the dead girl, and embarks on a mission to kill the mob bosses who assign her her missions. This premise is fine, and works mainly as clothesline to hang the various fight scenes, but the acting and production do their part to sink what should be pulpy fun.

With a premise like this, I was surprised that it wasn’t just a little more absurd. After watching Eve have a knife pulled out of her head, I prepared myself for even zanier shit. Instead, Angel of Death stays a little too grounded, with back story involving Eve’s romance with her co-worker/assassin buddy Graham, his attempts to “get out of the life”, and some mafia maneuvering that felt over from the moment it was introduced. If this kind of material is going to play, the players need to know how this stuff works. The mafia brother and sister duo work, since both actors ham that shit up to 11. Doug Jones as a fidgety cokehead doctor also scores, because he imbues his character with so much personality. On the other hand, Graham is as dull as the cracker of his namesake. I never bought for a minute that he and Eve had any sort of relationship, and the fact that he seemed half asleep most of the time didn’t help either. In his big death scene I wondered, “How is this any different from how he usually acts?”

"Hi, I'm Grahamzzzzzzzzzz"

"Hi, I'm Grahamzzzzzzzzzz"

Thankfully, Angel of Death has those fights I was talking about. Zoe Bell is known for her stunt work in Kill Bill and Death Proof. Here, she’s working in mostly hand to hand combat, throwing down (and being thrown) in dirty restrooms, kicking guys out windows, strangling people to death with zipties, and there’s some gun play too. All of this is well done. The fights look brutal and real, and Bell is never anything less than convincing. I will say that her acting is better than the rest, but seeing her glower for 70 minutes isn’t utilizing her well.

Angel of Death ends with a cliffhanger, teasing the idea of more adventures to come. I welcome this, but want something that embraces the cheese a bit more. This should be pulpy fun, but tends to play more like an R-rated TV episode. Think USA Network. Not a compliment.

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