Angel (1983)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/16/23
Cast: Donna Wilkes, Cliff Gorman, Rory Calhoun, John Diehl

"Can you show us your whisker biscuit?"

Angel (Donna Wilkes) is a 15 year old high school student by day, and a hooker on Hollywood Boulevard at night. There's a serial killer on the loose (John Diehl) who has been targeting prostitutes, and it doesn't take long for Angel's friends to become victims. Lt. Andrews (Cliff Gorman) has a team working on the case, but they don't have any leads, which causes Angel to take the law into her own hands.

Considered a classic 80's exploitation thriller based on the iconic poster alone, it's really not very exploitive at all and handles everything with a light and sensitive touch. The street performers and working girls are presented tastefully and respectfully, which gives them a genuine amount of sincerity and depth. Angel's situation is tragic and unique, but she's smart and sweet, and her street family takes care of her. Donna Wilkes delivers an excellent performance as Angel and does an amazing job running in heels. John Diehl goes all out as a psychotic killer, and his intense performance is very creepy and disturbing. The supporting characters give strong and quirky performances, which lends an odd sense of humor to the show.

I enjoyed "Angel" a lot more than I expected to, and it contains a surprising amount of thoughtful social commentary to chew on. However, it also suffers from a lot of B-movie trappings, guerilla production values, awkward dialog, and misplaced humor. The soundtrack also seems inappropriately sentimental at times. The film includes several deflections to keep the viewer off balance, but they make you question the film's logic and continuity afterwards. The story is also frustratingly vague, and it's never clear what happened to Angel's father. Even more frustrating is that the killer gets no backstory at all, so there are no clues regarding his motivations or mental state. He just enjoys killing prostitutes. The only glimpse we get into his personal life is a photo of his mother on the wall that we see for a few seconds. As a hooker, Angel does very little hooking, which betrays the exploitive nature of the film. It almost feels like an after school special in its presentation, with some gratuitous locker room nudity thrown in to ensure an R rating. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it could be disappointing for anyone who decides to watch the movie based on the trashy poster and tag line. At the same time, it also has a few unapologetically dark and grim moments to remind you that there's a nasty killer on the loose. So while it's not a great movie by any means, it's certainly not a terrible one. It falls a bit short as a "girls with guns" revenge movie, but it's a solid B-movie dramatic thriller.