Avenging Angelo

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 06/13/03 11:27:50

"Sly needs to WHACK whoever's presently posing as his agent."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

There's something simply fascinating about the recent output of Sly Stallone. Sure, he's never been known as some amazing thespian or anything - but I think Sly's always had an Affable Lug persona that makes it really hard for me to savage the guy - even though he's currently incarcerated in straight-to-video purgatory.

I first remember hearing about this movie when it was meant to be rendition of Stephen King's short story "Dolan's Cadillac". As a feverish King fan, I was intrigued by the idea of Sly appearing in one of the master's stories. Some research then informed me that Dolan's Cadillac got shitcanned when Sly demanded more money for his role. (I've no idea if this report is accurate but it is kinda juicy - and if it IS factual then it's further evidence that Stallone kinda deserves his current career lethargy.)

So now a few years later comes a direct-to-video movie called Avenging Angelo, and while it's minimally more entertaining than Stallone's previous turkey (Eye See You), that's like saying that vomit smells slightly more pleasant than does month-old dog doody. In other words, Sly - despite his seemingly unquenchable desire to prove me otherwise - deserves better than this.

Speaking of people who deserve better, let's have a moment to admire the career of master actor Anthony Quinn. Veteran of dozens of great movies, Quinn made his very last onscreen appearance in this one. It's hardly a winning footnote - though I suspect Quinn will be fondly remembered for his amazing career and not for the few duds that he did to the pay the bills.

The plot here sees Sly as a disgraced hitman who must protect his dead boss' clueless and spoiled daughter. The flick veers lazily from tiresome crime drama to dull action to limp rom-com with no clear sense of logical storytelling or what constitutes an entertaining movie. Sly offs the oncoming assassins and slowly feels all romantic-al towards Stowe. None of it works.

But, and this absolutely shocked me, Stallone is (against all known odds) is actually pretty good here! After seeing him limp lazily through Eye See You I was expecting another lifeless performance but here he's fairly laid-back, relaxed and actually sort of fun to watch! I know! I was stunned! Despite working from what's probably one of the most inept screenplays in years (love the entirely retarded finale!), Stallone SOMEHOW creates a guy you'll actually like. If that's not some small testament to his remaining screen presence, well then it's just a pleasant little surprise.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is poor Madeline Stowe. For years I've ranked Ms. Stowe among my favorite actresses - based mainly on her work in stuff like The Last of the Mohicans and 12 Monkeys - but something...amiss...has happened to this formerly reliable actor in recent years. Sure, it would be easy to lay the blame on her ridiculously over-collagened new lips (which I believe made their debut in We Were Soldiers) but fake, fat lips couldn't completely explain how overwhelmingly clueless Stowe is in this movie. Her vapid performance makes Sly's look even more seasoned - and that's a weird thing to see. Stowe approaches comedy as if it were made entirely of raw fish; her performance is painful to watch.

It pains me to see a former box-office heavyweight mumble his way through a series of obscure and pretty awful DTV movies, but I suppose the sad truth is simply that the big fella's way past his prime and doesn't really have the chops to branch out elsewhere. Hopefully his presence in the upcoming Spy Kids 3-D will give Sly a little jump-start in the popularity department.

Cuz these disposable video flicks do nothing but humiliate the guy. He ain't Olivier but he's better than this.

At least this one's not a total washout. The movie's as unwieldy and schizophrenic as you could imagine, but Sly's loose and likable - and that alone makes for a nice switch.

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