Avenging Angelo is the second straight-to-video Sylvester Stallone movie we've seen in less than a year's time (the other being Eye See You). Although this one got a theatrical release in both Italy and Greece last year, it has been otherwise unseen until now. And unlike Eye See You, which this reviewer thought deserved a theatrical run, I can see why this one was held from American theaters.
The premise has Stallone playing bodyguard (he likes to call himself a "watcher") Frankie Delano, who has spent his life protecting mob boss Angelo Allieghieri (Anthony Quinn, in his final performance) from those who wish to eliminate him. But he's also been assigned to keep an eye on Jennifer (Madeleine Stowe), Angelo's daughter, who has no idea that she is the offspring of this notorious mafia honcho.
Early in the film, Angelo fears that the end for him may be coming soon, and he makes Frankie promise that he will protect his daughter once he is gone. Sure enough, Angelo is targeted for a hit, and a distraction prevents Frankie from saving him in time. Distraught over the death of his employer, who has been like a father to Frankie, he seeks out Jennifer and tells her the truth, and starts to become part of her life, since she has now become the primary target of those who have killed Angelo.
Many of you reading this review and unfamiliar with the movie will probably think that this sounds like a decent idea for a drama. And it is…if only the movie had decided to focus on the dramatic elements. Instead the film goes back and forth from being a drama to being a slapstick comedy, and while a little humor is always a welcome addition to any film where Stallone is the star, the broad humor in Avenging Angelo sometimes seems so out of place, the entire movie suffers.
The good news, especially for Stallone fans, is that Sly is solid throughout the picture. Whatever problems the film itself may have, Stallone is always-watchable, and does a good job with the material he is given in this movie. Quinn is masterful, as always, in the small part he has here – and even though he has far more memorable roles in his brilliant career, he does enough here in his final performance to remind us why he was such a great actor. Not so lucky is Stowe, who is given a majority of the more slapstick-oriented stuff, some of which she handles humorously and some of which she just embarrasses herself with.
The DVD offers the option of watching the film in either the letterbox (2:35:1) or pan and scan formats. The transfer is only about average for a DVD release of a recent film, with noticeable flecks of white and "dirt" here and there at various points of the movie. There are flashbacks during the film that are intentionally grainy and filled with occasional "dirt", but the rest of the film also has noticeable problems here and there. The opening credits make the movie look like the video is going to be a little "soft" and over-saturated, but once the actual actors appear, most of the scenes seem to have the right sharpness and color balance. I didn't notice a layer change during the film, so if one was present (the movie has a running time of 97 minutes), it's in a pretty good spot. Overall, though, this is an acceptable transfer and there's nothing overly distracting about it, although it is very average when compared with other recent releases on the market.
Viewers will be given the option of watching the film in English in either 5.1 Dolby or 2.0 Dolby, as well as having 2.0 Spanish and French tracks available. I watched the film with the 5.1 track, and there was nothing really outstanding about it. During even the more action-oriented sequences, the audio wasn't very "aggressive", so like the video transfer, the audio here is only average for a DVD release.
The most impressive extra on the Avenging Angelo DVD is a great commentary track from director Martyn Burke. Burke is entertaining and educational throughout his entire commentary, and makes the right balance between telling what is happening in the scene, what his intentions were and giving us tidbits of info about the actors and what was happening on the set. The movie itself may not be perfect, but other directors would be wise to check out Mr. Burke's commentary here for a great example of what makes a perfect audio commentary for a DVD release.
Also on the disc is a Featurette, which is one of the more interesting ones I have seen. Instead of a slick, professionally produced one, what we get is basically raw footage from the set that is narrated by Burke and director of photography Ousama Rawi. There are also brief clips of interviews with the cast (particularly Stallone), as well as what may be the golden gem of the entire disc: footage from the filming of the last scene Anthony Quinn would ever do as an actor.
Additional bonus material includes an interview with writers Will Aldis and Steve Mackall; and two trailers for the movie – one domestic (which gives viewers the impression that the film is an action piece), and one international (which focuses on the comedy in the movie).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although Avenging Angelo may not be a title you'll want to add to your permanent collection, it is worth a look – if only to see Anthony Quinn's final performance and check out the bonus material that shows his final days on the set.
Stallone fans probably won't rank this as one of their favorites, but it's certainly better than some of his recent films that did make it to the big screen in America, such as Driven or Get Carter.
I would have been happier with the movie had they just focused on the drama and romance and got rid of the poor attempts at comedy. My recommendation is to rent before buying to see if this title offers enough entertainment to you personally to warrant a purchase.