out of Five
Running time: 128
Engaging, energetic gangster thriller-slash-biopic with a charismatic central performance from Kim Rossi Stuart, though the pacy direction means that the film is often frustratingly light on context and detail.
What's it all about?
Directed by Michele Placido, Angels of Evil (Vallanzasca - Gli angeli del male, original title fans) is based on the true story of Milanese bank robber Renato Vallanzasca (Kim Rossi Stuart), a controversial figure who is still in prison today (though allowed out on day release). The film opens in 1985 with Vallanzasca receiving a brutal beating in jail before flashing back to his childhood and detailing his rise during the 1970s and 1980s to a position as one of Milan's most notorious bank robbers.
In between his frequent jail terms, prison breaks and bank robberies, Vallanzasca fathers a child with the beautiful Consuelo (Valeria Solarino) and attempts to keep control of hot-headed fellow gang member (and childhood friend) Enzo (Filippo Timi). He also has his hands full with Richard Gere-alike rival crime boss Turatello (Francesco Scianna) and the feud between the two men grows ever more violent as the years pass.
Kim Rossi Stuart effortlessly carries the film with a compelling performance that showcases Vallanzasca's undoubted charisma (he was known as “il ben Rene”). There's also strong support from both Scianna and Timi, while Paz Vega makes a strong impression as Antonella, a childhood friend who ends up mediating between Vallanzasca and Turatello.
Michele Placido maintains an exciting pace throughout, aided by some impressive editing and a superb score by Negramaro. Similarly, the production design is excellent, even if the multiple brown suits, bushy 70s hairdos and heavily moustachioed faces do occasionally make it difficult to tell everyone apart.
The main problem is that the pacy editing means that the plot is often frustratingly light on historical and political context. Similarly, it's often apparent that the film has been chopped down from a longer version, with potentially interesting characters (such as the besotted fan that Vallanzasca marries while in jail) being introduced and then swiftly dropped, never to reappear.
While not quite in the same league as the likes of Mesrine and The Baader-Meinhof Complex, Angels of Evil is still an engaging, well made, gangster thriller with a terrific central performance from Kim Rossi Stuart. Worth seeing.