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El Ángel” is a stylish foreign crime thriller

Lorenzo Ferro as Carlitos IN EL ÁNGEL

What is the power of influence over film?

I can still recall with amazing clarity when I first saw Faye Dunaway’s devious smile in the classic “Bonnie and Clyde.” There is also Warren Beatty donning his handsome mug and plenty of violence and gore to knock the socks off any movie-going audience. That film focuses on two criminals who fall in love while pulling off a series of ever-escalating and audacious heists, while also exploring themes of sexuality, criminality, and identity.

“El Ángel,” Argentina’s official submission to the 91st Academy Awards, doesn’t aspire to be a straight and narrow adaptation of “Bonnie and Clyde,” but it most certainly borrows some elements from it. In doing so, it provides for us a wondrous new text for us to borrow from—raising the bar for Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque films to a new height.

Set in 1970s Buenos Aires, “El Ángel” is an odd combination of a coming-of-age story and a crime thriller. Carlos, played by relative newcomer Lorenzo Ferro, is our main protagonists–and boy does he love to steal things. He is befriended by Ramón (Chino Darín) and the two begin a series of crimes that become increasingly audacious in scope.

Ferro has the makings of a young Timothée Chalamet a la Hot Summer Nights—he plays his part cool and collected with the right amount of sadistic qualities that straddle that line between sanity and excess. This descent into the criminal underworld—the lower Carlos sinks—is portrayed with wondrous quality and candor that make him a star to watch.

Ferro’s performance is the most significant standout, although the rest of the ensemble play their parts well. Of note is Darín’s Ramon’s somewhat muted performance-- he’s still just as ambitious in his criminal goals, but Ramon plays the part with grit but grace.

Director Luis Ortega should be commended for his great work here—this film oozes with style. It’s beautifully shot and images are composed extremely well with an eye for excitement and drama. Music accompanies the dramatic heists very well and will leave a tune in your ear.

“El Ángel” reminds us that while films regularly borrow from others, there’s always more we can learn. This film is a great work of cinema that deserves your attention—and reminds us that films of the global south can forge their own paths into greatness.

Rating: A-

“El Ángel” Releases on November 16

jrobbins@theeagleonlie.com


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