Sunday, September 6, 2015

Does the World Really Need Another Mafia Comedy?: "Avenging Angelo" (2003)

With the terrific success of "The Sopranos," and with "Married to the Mob" and "Prizzi's Honor" lurking in their collective subconscious, the film makers behind "Avenging Angelo" have some big cement shoes to fill, or I should say, fail to fill.

Angelo (Anthony Quinn) is a dying mob boss accompanied by his faithful bodyguard Frankie (Sylvester Stallone). Years before, Angelo fathered a daughter, Jennifer (Madeleine Stowe), but gave her up to a childless family. A contract had been put out on any child Angelo may have, so he and Frankie kept their distance but always kept an eye on Jennifer.

Jennifer grows up into a rich neurotic housewife married to jerk Kip (Harry Van Gorkum). Angelo gets whacked, Frankie is injured, and he goes to Jennifer to tell her the truth about her real father and protects her as hitmen begin hunting her down. Now, that's only the beginning! Author Marcello (Raoul Boya) enters Jennifer's life, sweeping her off her feet. Frankie's love stays unrequited as Jennifer decides to take out a hit on the man responsible for Angelo's death.

What the DVD cover for the film doesn't tell you is this tries to be a comedy, and I emphasize the word "tries." Stallone is very likable as Frankie, and Quinn is sympathetic in his last role. Stowe throws herself completely into the film, giving us her most memorable character since "12 Monkeys" and "The Last of the Mohicans." It's a shame the film tries too hard to cram every funny idea it has into ninety-some odd minutes, because snappier editing might have helped. Jokes about Jennifer's adoptive dad's homosexuality go over like a fart in church. A running gag about Frankie disposing of bodies at Jennifer's mansion (where a farting hitman goes over like, well, a fart in church, too) is abandoned. Jennifer's first "hit" takes too long and comes at a weird time in the film.

The story never progresses smoothly as characters and situations are hurriedly introduced and executed, as if a treatment and not a screenplay was filmed. It's easy to see why "Avenging Angelo" went right to video, and probably resides in the Action section at your local video store thanks to the misleading cover art. Forget Angelo, I want my ninety-six minutes avenged. (* *) out of five stars.

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