The last time Luc Besson directed a movie, was back in 1999. The last six years he occupied himself with his production-company EuropaCorp and by writing a lot of screenplays. Now he's back with his 9th feature film, ANGEL-A. This time no gunfights, car-chases or explosions. Nope, this time the man brings us, of all things, a romantic comedy. The movie is completely shot in Paris and seems to be one of the most secret projects of French cinema. Honestly, I can't see why, except maybe for a nice plot-twist which is presented to us halfway through the movie and not, as usual, near the end.
The plot (don't worry, no spoilers): André is a regular swindler. He lies and cheats all the time and owes money to almost every criminal in Paris. After being beaten and threatened for the umpteenth time, he decides to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. On the verge of committing this act of despair, while standing on a bridge, he looks to the left and sees a girl about to do the same thing. When she jumps, he jumps after her and saves her from drowning. She's so thankful that she offers to do anything he wants while constantly remaining at his side. Suprisedly, she turns out to be a real life-saver by finding a lot of dubious ways to earn money and pay off André's debts. After a while André wants to know why she's doing all these things for him and is curious about her past...
Jamel Debbouze (you might know him as the slightly retarded grocer's assistant in LE FABULEUX DESTIN D'AMÉLIE POULAIN) is particularly good as the nervous André. The Dannish Rie Rasmussen, a sexy blond goddess with legs that go all the way, takes a little more time to convince as Angela. However, there is a certain chemistry between the two of them. The other characters are merely caricatured portraits of criminals and gangsters.
The story is rather straightforward and relies a lot on funny situations and dialogues. A lot of talking is being done and I must say most of the lines are well-written. Near the end of the movie, unfortunately, Luc Besson goes way over-the-top, making the movie lose a lot of credibility. But then again, it just might be possible that the end could be interpreted in two different ways. And that makes me suspect that Besson likes to play it safe by trying to please as many viewers as possible.
Anyway, a very important reason to watch this movie is the atmospheric black & white-photography by cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, who also worked on Besson's previous films. Paris, during autumn, is beautifully transferred to the screen with well-balanced lighting. The movie also has some impressive shots of 'la Tour Eiffel', a cathedral in 'le XVe arrondissement' and the many bridges to be found in Paris.
Most likely ANGEL-A will have as many defenders as adversaries, not necessarily to be divided in Besson-fans and not-fans respectively. But both parties will have to admit Besson had the guts to try something different. So let the box-office decide whether this genre-effort is successful or not.