Angel Town

  • 1990
  • 1 HR 27 MIN
  • R
  • Action, Martial Arts

Following in the bone-breaking footsteps of Jean-Claude Van Damme, kickboxing sensation Olivier Gruner stars in ANGEL TOWN. His woodenness easily matches Van Damme's and, being French, he, like the Belgian Van Damme, also has a thick accent, rendering even his rudimentary line readings unintelligible to all but the most practiced ear. Not that ANGEL TOWN...read more

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Following in the bone-breaking footsteps of Jean-Claude Van Damme, kickboxing sensation Olivier Gruner stars in ANGEL TOWN. His woodenness easily matches Van Damme's and, being French, he, like the Belgian Van Damme, also has a thick accent, rendering even his rudimentary line readings

unintelligible to all but the most practiced ear. Not that ANGEL TOWN needs much dialog. The splendidly silly prolog (supposedly set in Paris), which explains the French kickboxing champion's presence in East Los Angeles, is about as dramatically complicated as the film ever gets. On his way to

the airport, Gruner stops at the grave of his father, explaining that he's going to America to coach a kickboxing team and, while he's at it, to pick up an advanced engineering degree from "Southern California University." Having performed the arduous task of moving their hunk from Paris to LA,

writer S.N. Warren and director Eric Karson (THE OCTAGON) now must transport him from the safety of the campus to the wilder (in this case Chicano) side of LA, where he moves in with a widowed mom (Theresa Saldana). Her son (Frank Aragon) reminds Gruner of his own youth (depicted in a series of

not-so-splendidly-silly "Paris"-based flashbacks that explain virtually nothing and, thankfully, disappear entirely about halfway into this epic). Of course, the real reason the moviemakers move Gruner into the barrio is to have him kick butt. Gruner's main antagonists are a renegade gang run by

Uzzi-wielding Angel (Tony Valentino), a sociopath from the Trinidad Silva school, who is obsessed with forcing Aragon either to join the gang or to die slowly. Valentino becomes even more obsessed with Gruner, who protects Aragon and his mom while urging the lad to take on Valentino by himself,

avenging the gang leader's murder of Aragon's father, a kindhearted community activist. Fortunately, virtually all of these fine points of character and plot motivation fall by the wayside as the film's raison d'etre--kickboxing action--becomes apparent. Gruner is even allowed to abandon his

classes in a single scene that shows him falling asleep during a quiz--not because he's just had two huge fights, but because he is so much more advanced than either his classmates or his teacher. In his now-ample free time, Gruner begins bashing Chicanos by the carload. He even recruits a friend,

an Asian martial-arts teacher (Peter Kwong), and his students to join the fun, allowing for some really big fight scenes. Valentino's madness provides the motivation for some drive-by violence, an attempted bombing of Gruner's expensive sports car, a grisly attempt to frame Gruner for murder, the

rape of Saldana, and other assorted mayhem. As always, the purpose of these violent episodes is to make the hero even more irate than he was to begin with. The final, "big" scene has it all, including a semi-paralysed Vietnam vet who uses an M16 rifle to help Aragon and Gruner hold off rampaging

hordes of Mexican-Americans. Of course, Aragon and Valentino finally go one-on-one (after Gruner has softened Valentino up).

As the going gets fast and furious near the film's end, ANGEL TOWN almost becomes crazy enough to make you forget how terrible a movie it is, though the sensation is a fleeting one. Even by this genre's standards it is hardly an impressive effort. The fights are badly staged, the action ranges

from the rudimentary to the ridiculous, and the props are laughable (in particular, the Uzzi that Valentino wields looks like a toy). Moreover, why bother giving Angel an Uzzi when he never uses it, even after Aragon takes some potshots at him with a shotgun? To the film's credit Valentino has

some good, edgy moments as Angel, and Saldana brings some conviction to her role; however, their efforts are totally wasted. (Violence, brief nudity.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Following in the bone-breaking footsteps of Jean-Claude Van Damme, kickboxing sensation Olivier Gruner stars in ANGEL TOWN. His woodenness easily matches Van Damme's and, being French, he, like the Belgian Van Damme, also has a thick accent, rendering even… (more)

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