REVIEW – Angels of Evil (2009)

Videovista have changed their format.  Rather than spewing a torrent of reviews at you once a month, the site has moved towards a more selective approach to publishing in which they devote attention solely to a few note-worthy films.  My first shot at the DVD of the month is a piece about Michele Placido’s Angels of Evil (a.k.a. Valanzasca – Gli Angeli del Male), the follow-up to Placido’s 2005 crime bio-pic Romanzo Criminale. While I ultimately found the film a good deal less engaging than the politically thoughtful Romanzo Criminale, Angels of Evil remains a beautifully shot and stylishly produced crime thriller that sheds an intriguing light on the challenges facing the crime bio-pic genre. My review is HERE.

Though undeniably well made, Angels Of Evil suffers terribly from an overabundance of familiar elements: it is a film entirely composed of stock characters. Vallanzasca’s first wife Consuelo (Valeria Solerino) is a beautiful woman who doesn’t take any shit from anyone right up until the moment she meets Vallanzasca and promptly transforms into a long-suffering doormat with a sensible haircut. Similarly, the members of Vallanzasca’s gang are differentiated solely through their facial hair and their professional characteristics including the capacity to ride a motorcycle at 125 mph, and make good use of a sub-machinegun. Even Turatello is something of a cliché as his charismatic public persona masks a psychopathic fondness for violence and a rather predictable obsession with his hair that has him visiting women’s salons and sleeping in a hair-net. Anyone who has seen Goodfellas will recognise these sorts of characters and Goodfellas’ influence means that they have spent the last 20 years appearing and re-appearing in every crime thriller you care to mention. Aside from being faintly depressing, Placido’s refusal to depart from traditional genre stereotypes also serves to weaken his treatment of Vallanzasca himself.

Having damned the film for its generic nature, I then ponder whether the generic nature of the film’s characters might not be the result of deeper sociological forces. Indeed, if you watch The Sopranos, it is obvious that the characters have all partly modelled themselves on figures from the Godfather. This begs the following question: does the film’s depiction of Vallanzasca and his gang seem generic because of lazy script-writing or does the script capture the basic truths about a group of characters who modelled themselves on figures out of crime fiction and film?