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Almost an Angel

Olive Films // PG // November 24, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jesse Skeen | posted February 6, 2016 | E-mail the Author

"This time, the guy from down under is working for the man upstairs." After achieving international fame with 1986's Crocodile Dundee and its sequel two years later, Paul Hogan had several other offers for starring roles but was very selective in what he did, wanting to portray "good role models" rather than violent action heroes he was usually pitched. His first post-Dundee screen appearance finally came in 1990's Almost an Angel, which he wrote and executive-produced with longtime collaborator John Cornell directing. Hogan's character Terry Dean doesn't exactly start out as a "good role model" as he's a professional thief who's pulled off several bank robberies through getting around their security systems while disguised as celebrities, but finally landed in jail. He's about to be released as the film starts, and unsure of whether he's going to go straight or back to his old ways as he heads into the free world of Los Angeles. By chance, he sees a kid running out into the street unaware of an approaching van and jumps in front of it, saving the kid's life but landing himself in the hospital unconscious.

Having one of those dreams where hearing things going on around you plays into what you dream about, he first hears a nurse declare that the guy in the bed next to him has died, and also overhears the show "Highway to Heaven" playing on the TV in the room. Next thing he knows, his hospital bed is transported to heaven and he awakes next to God himself (played by an uncredited Charlton Heston) who judges him for his criminal life but admits his final act was admirable. God tells Terry he'll send him back to Earth as an "angel of mercy" to help out people, and if he does that right then he'll be allowed into heaven. Terry then wakes up, with the audience unsure of whether his meeting with God really happened or was just a dream, but he's convinced enough that he sets out on his mission to do some good in the world.

Taking an encounter with a truck from "Moses Bros. Moving and Storage" as another sign, he talks the driver into letting him ride along to his destination in the small town of Fillmore. Here he runs into wheelchair-bound Steve Garner (Elias Koteas) who picks a fight with him in a bar but they end up leaving as friends as Steve lets Terry stay at his family's house for the night. Terry soon learns about how Steve and his sister Rose (Linda Kozlowski, Hogan's co-star in the two Dundee movies and wife at the time) have been running a youth center for the town's underprivileged kids. As these types of places usually are in movies, it's faced with an uncertain future and in need of some financial help. Terry decides that his ultimate mission here that will get him into heaven is to make that happen, and sets out to convince a few people with money to spare to donate it to the center, doing so by making some miracles at least appear to happen- one having a potential donor's bedroom TV come on in the middle of the night and influence him, and another with the cross atop a shuttered church light up at just the right moment. Terry also learns of the unfortunate lives of his hosts and seeks a romance with Rose as a way to make her happier.

Almost an Angel has its heart in the right place, but is one of those movies that had me asking "That was it?" as it ended. The whole save-the-youth-center plot is better-suited for something made for one of the family cable channels rather than meant for "the big screen". While it's implied that Terry goes on to do more good deeds elsewhere after the movie ends, it would have felt more satisfying seeing some of those play out rather than focus on just this one. Still, it's always nice to see a bad guy change his ways and do some good in the world, and Hogan gets plenty of laughs out of this as he has to ask himself several times if he's doing "the right thing" and also stops himself short from profane words and "saying the Lord's name in vain." Although Paramount had high hopes for Almost an Angel and released it close to Christmas, critics weren't very kind to it and most of its potential audience opted to see that year's surprise megahit Home Alone instead. Paul Hogan next appeared in Lightning Jack which didn't quite set the world on fire either, had a supporting role in 1996's Flipper which I played to an empty theater more times than any other movie I can remember during my projectionist career, and finally re-hashed his Crocodile Dundee character in one more sequel which was a welcome return although it couldn't quite bring back the original's magic.


Olive's Blu-Ray presentation varies in quality- the first few minutes seem to have a bit of artificial sharpening, but this disappears soon enough. Most of the movie looks pretty good with a clean transfer that brings out all the detail (and exposes flaws in a few visual effects), but compression artifacts show up in some of the darker scenes and particularly spoil a crucial moment of the "miracle" of the church lighting up at night as dancing pixels show up in the night sky.


The matrix surround mix is encoded here in 2-channel DTS Master Audio and flagged for output as PCM. The mix is unremarkable but adequate, with most dialogue centered and a few directional effects from the left and right.

Final Thoughts:

Almost an Angel is almost a good movie, as it's a feel-good story without quite enough substance. It's always interesting to look back a few years later on movies that fell short of expectations- I had rented this on VHS when it came out and pretty much forgot about it until revisiting it again on this Blu-Ray disc. While I appreciated it a bit more this time, I still couldn't help feeling like it could have been so much more than what it was.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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