Michael Sylvester Enzio Stallone is in trouble. Once he commanded box-office clout and was one of the biggest action stars of all time, now with a series of lacklustre films over the last few years he’s in risk of becoming the next straight-to-video action star and joining the ranks of Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Even more worrying is that his latest offering Avenging Angelo hasn’t been picked up by a studio yet.
Stallone is Frankie Delano, right-hand man and bodyguard to mob boss Angelo Allighieri (Anthony Quinn). Angelo treats Frankie more like a son than an employee and in turn Frankie sees the aging mobster as a father. Angelo knows that his time is nearly up and spends time making videos for his daughter – a daughter who has no idea she is the child of a mob boss and who was given into adoption years ago to protect her from the violence that impregnates Angelo’s world.
Unable to save Angelo from an assassination by a rival mob boss, Frankie seeks out Angelo’s daughter, Jennifer (Madeline Stowe), believing that she will be the next target as Angelo’s enemies have sworn to kill everyone in his family. He tells her about her heritage and who she really is. Jennifer doesn’t take the news seriously and only after a foiled assassination attempt on her does she comprehend the gangsters’ world she’s been thrust into. Realising her only chance of staying alive is to play the mob bosses’s at their own level – even if it means killing the men responsible and avenging her father.
So, the stage is set; Frankie spends his time protecting Jennifer (and as a result, disposing of an increasing amount of bodies in the nearest lake) and Jennifer is getting accustom to her new life style (a lifestyle with the ever watchful Frankie over her). Things begin to take a complicated turn when Jennifer becomes infatuated with a handsome young writer and Frankie realises that Jennifer is more important to him than just someone to watch over.
It’s not that Avenging Angelo is necessarily a bad film – it just doesn’t know what it wants to be – action, comedy, romance and drama. The balance is just not right and gives the feeling that writer Will Aldis rushed the screenplay. There is too much focus during the film on the relationship between Frankie and Jennifer and as a result the villains tend to take a backseat to the stage of not even being noticed most of the time. Without a real threat of danger during the middle of the film, the comedy (if it can be called that) takes centre stage. It’s just horribly mashed together which is a shame as the premise could have been quite good.
Stallone is a better actor with age (see Copland), but the choices in his projects just doesn’t seem to going his way. As with D-Tox, his previous film prior to this, he’s picking more real characters (as opposed to the caricature’s he played in the latter Rocky and Rambo films). Roles like Frankie suit him well and he plays this one well – having said that, there are some scenes that are completely cringe-worthy (like seeing Frankie trying to teach Jennifer how to walk – we want to see Stallone with an AK47 not mincing across our screens!). However, there’s genuine warmth in his scenes with Anthony Quinn and its obvious that he has a great deal of respect for the mighty Quinn.
Madeline Stowe is okay as Jennifer and it’s nice to see the transition from hysterical spoilt rich girl to calm, confident woman – but then again, its not really a taxing role either). Anthony Quinn (in his last role before joining the great cast-party in the sky) is great as Angelo. It’s a role that suits Quinn to the ground and it’s with more than a twinge of sadness to see him on screen for the last time.
Performances aside; with a lacklustre romance aspect, a very weak script and a plot that would make Don Corleone wince, Avenging Angelo doesn’t have a lot to offer and will most likely be relegated to a video bin somewhere.
Maybe Sylvester Stallone should stop and re-evaluate his career and go back to what made him famous in the first place (take a leaf from Robin Williams book – he’s stopped doing the light-weight family films and just done three films as disturbed characters and even gone back to the stage to do stand-up comedy). Look at the kings of the 80’s; Schwarzenegger has just completed principal filming on his hope of rescuing a career (in the shape of a new Terminator film), Eddie Murphy is floundering and less said about Patrick Swayze the better. Whether the world is ready to embrace another Rambo is hard to say, but Stallone needs to tap back into his fan base before it disappears.
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