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Studio: Sin City » Review by Disco Dirge » Review Date: 4/1/04

XCritic's Advice: Recommended

GENRE: Straight Feature
LENGTH: 180 mins with bonus material

It's funny, but when people are pissing and moaning about remakes and reduxes, they hardly ever mention the flat out rip-off known as the cinematic copycat. Much more mediocre than a retelling of a famous flick, these out and out premise pilferers swipe a name, change it a little and then make their own mess of a movie to defraud the audience. As idiotic impersonators of famous flicks, they usually don't add up to much, and over the years, mainstream producers have avoided the outright mimic to make their own almost-similar statements. But thanks to the porn industry, the total take off is in full bloom again. Adult films are famous for their homage whoring happenstance, knocking off names and ideas to feed the need for porking product. You recognize a sample the instant you see it, and understand what the premise is without ever eyeing a second of film. Tainted titles like Flesh Gordon, Gulp Again's Island, The Sopornos, and The Bare Bitch Project say more with a few words than in thousands of 24 frame per second pictures. A hit arrives on the mainstream big screen and a hundred clever creators are automatically coming up with fuck film permutations: The Incredible Gulp, Whore of the Rings, School of Cock. Even Sin City has gotten into the act with the first of what will probably be a series of such skin flicks. It's no surprise to see that Angels uses the premise from the 70s T&A camp-fest to put pouty porn stars in harms, and wangs, way. We are supposed to be watching the wild adventures of a group of gals known less for their pussy and more for their expert marksmanship, cyber-savvy genius and danger loving diva-dom. But no Bosley can compensate for the flat nature of the fucking here.

The DVD:
Vanessa, Jessica and Cassie are Harley's Angels, three smart and sexy super sleuths who work for this mysterious man whom they've never met. They only know him by the sound of his voice when he gives them their missions. This time around, Harley wants the Angels to protect a wealthy woman named Dante Parker. She has a valuable painting that criminal mastermind Zee Casparian wants very badly. The plan is simple: Vanessa will go undercover as a security guard, working for Dante to protect the priceless art. Jessica will return to Zee, the man she once worked for, but in a far more covert mode. And Cassie will act as a lookout and available distraction. But, apparently, Zee has more in mind than the painting, and it will take all the Angels skills to keep the vile villain from getting what he wants.

Spread throughout the narrative are six sex scenes. They really don't advance the plot and only on occasion logically fall within the story. Most seem to exist almost separate from the script. Dealt with individually, we have:

Scene 1: Harley (Randy Spears) and Raquel (Nikki Vail)
After speaking to his Angels over the phone, Harley settles back to get serviced by one of his assistants, Raquel. She starts off by sucking on Harley's cock until he begs for more. She even gives his balls a bit of attention. After the log licking Raquel climbs on top and rides the baloney pony for a while. In order to complete the saddle sore dynamic, she swings around and reverses her cowgirl ways. Soon, a kennel club rendition of that golden oldie - doggie style – is enacted for moments of pleasure. Harley finally files his foam all over Raquel's tits. Angels starts off a little too subtle and sparse. Since we are not allowed to see Harley (Randy Spears), we only get shots of Nikki Vail in various moan poses. The color is also atrocious. It's either the make-up person's problem, or a post-production color correction screw up. Honestly, both Vail and Spears look like cadavers; skin taking on a tacky, orange-green sheen. It is really disturbing and cuts way down on the earned eros. Score: 6/10

Scene 2: Cassie (Shay Sweet) and Zee Capsarian (Steven St. Croix)
Hoping to misdirect Zee while Jessica does some snooping, Cassie claims car key trouble and rewards our villain's chivalry with a good old-fashioned fucking. But first, there has to be some quick foreplay before Cassie gets down to dickville. She sucks the shaft like it's loaded with vitamins and Zee returns the favor by fluffing her vulva with relish. He chows on the cheater, tonguing and rimming each and every orifice in the vicinity until it's time to put tool to the twat. First, the female takes command as she hops on top of pop. Next, the cowboy's sweetheart gets a chance to ride the pink pole prairie. Zee seizes control and he scissors the shit out of the calm Cassie. He plunges his pecker deep down in the glorious hole and before long he is ready to serve up his own personal pop. The "heady" brew is spread all over Cassie's body, head to toe. Though Shay is more vacant than a Panama City motel off-season, St. Croix sells the sex expertly. This means that the scene is a half success and simmers instead of sizzles. Score: 6/10

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Scene 3: Jessica (Aurora Snow) and Zee Capsarian (Steven St. Croix)
After giving Cassie a cockful, Zee returns home to find Jessica waiting for him. Figuring that all wayward women need a wiener waxing every now and then, he approaches the anxious Angel (actually, Jessica used to work for Zee before she gave up the life of crime for porn...I mean private detective work). Things start off with the standard penis polishing. Jess just loves to lick dick. Since we have seen him in action before, we know Zee is infamous for his reciprocity and he munches the Miss' mons with fervor. Next, for those who would like lesson in how to properly mount your steed in the face forward position, watch the extreme close-up version of the rapidly becoming clichéd sex act for step-by-step instructions. Jessica does an about and let's Zee deep penetrate her in the female superior situation. When Zee is ready to deliver his dick deli spread, he unleashes in Jessica's mouth. Aurora Snow is a pretty good little actress. She handles her cynical role with expertise. And she can really ride the rod. But her vagina is very unappetizing; she has minimal labia and every opening is gaping. Her gynecologist could exam her from across the room. And sadly, the bad color is back again. Still, she and St. Croix light up the screen. This means the scene is very intense and erotic. Score: 8/10

Scene 4: Dante Parker (Asia Carrera) and Vanessa (Hannah Harper)
Apparently, part of Vanessa's job as a security officer for a rich heiress is to do a little client carpet munching. Dante and Vanessa engage in a little dine and dash on each other's privates, with a lot of manual manipulation and finger picking. This is lipstick lesbianism all the way. We barely see the girls work up a sweat and everything is handled in a high-class soft focus fantasy manner. Therefore, while both Carrera and Harper are as hot as Hell's greenhouse, the scene never builds up any real sexual steam. Yes, this very male critic just dissed a scene between sexy starlets. Get over it. Score: 5/10

Scene 5: Cassie (Shay Sweet) and Roger (Trevor Zen)
While Vanessa is teaching Dante all the secrets of snatch CPR, Roger and Cassie are getting to know each other better – in a completely non-sexual harassment ideal, mind you. As they overhear the hot honey antics in the mansion above, Cassie is cooking Roger's sausage in her own oral oven. Soon, a car fender becomes a pedestal for Cassie to rest her chassis on as Roger pile drivers her from behind. After the dog has been taken for a nice long plunge, the hood serves as stand for some straight sex. Roger releases his inner ink with a squirt and a spurt all over Cassie's chest. This sequence is kinda odd, coming so quickly after Dante and Vanessa's personal probing. It's like we don't have time to catch our breath (or readjust our boxers) before another slab at sex heads our way. Again, Shay is as distant as one of Jupiter's moons so Trevor needs to crank his yank game to give us something sensual. Unfortunately, he's just not up to it. Score: 5/10

Scene 6: Vanessa (Hannah Harper) and Wesley (Barrett Blade)
For the final hardcore act of the film, Vanessa teaches Wesley a lesson in self-defense. After some achingly bad faux martial arts, our undercover gal creams this punk puke's cock with her luscious lips. After she shines the shaft, Wes lunches on her box. He loves to poke around with his pudgy fingers to0 see what else is going on inside the furry frig. Puppy power is next on the list as Vanessa assumes the position and her tattooed paramour pumps her from behind. Eventually, she ends up on top and gingerly grinds into Wes' groin. He finishes off with a money shot to the face. Barrett Blade is a much better persona than a porn star. He seems to be struggling a lot, both with his passion and his "pertness". His mega-pierced paunchiness is distracting, but Hannah seems to be enjoying herself (besides, she's one bawdy British bird). After St. Croix's scenes and Harley's initial ho-down, the film's flesh fun more or less peters out. This means that we are left paying attention to the plot, and that is another story all together. Score: 5/10

Angels has NONE of the ironic wire-fu farcical nature of the Barrymore/Diaz/Liu blockbuster. Heck, it can hardly call up some of the camp cornballing of the Aaron Spelling original. The feature film foundation is almost an excuse for endless ennui inducing copulation. Everything is too clean and softcore. There is no real raunchy reasons for the viewer to get "excited". And there is plot o'plenty. Instead of more fucking and sucking, we get 10 minutes each of set-up and closing action sequence. Now, the non-naked material is pretty good for the most part, but the overall atmosphere is very schizophrenic. The acting doesn't help matters much. Again, Aurora Snow is excellent, giving off a suspicious Ellen Barkin vibe in her dialogue scenes. Tia Carerra is always good and Steven St. Croix is more than capable. He also does a wonderfully funny Christopher Walken impression when he cases the potential crime scene incognito. But Shay Sweet is just an eye candy airhead and Hannah Harper can't understand that you need to SPEAK UP on camera. Some of this could be director Francios Clousot's fault. He thinks that intimate means insular and never opens up his images beyond the medium shot and close-up. He also stages every sex scene by a formulaic pluke by numbers set of positions that grow so familiar you could devise a drinking game based on them. It's nice to see a return to a feature film philosophy among adult entertainment companies. But if Angels is an example, perhaps the concept needs some rethinking itself.

The Video:
Presented in a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation, Angels lacks clarity and contrast. In keeping with the Skinemax ideal for the production, the image is fuzzy and too soft focus at times. There is also some minor pixelization in the corners, the telltale computer cubes dancing around the picture pallet with gusto. As mentioned before, there seems to be some bad color correction in the digital element, making the actors look like members of the living dead. Mind you, the transfer is not terrible. But there are far better looking adult titles out on the market, and the image issues here speak to Sin City's concern for the cinematic aspects of their "films".

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital soundscape, in a really channel specific 5.1, is perhaps a little too element isolated. Conversations take place in distinct channels while the same old blipping electronica squawks in the background. During the sex scenes, the music all but disappears as the actors ache and quake with oral delight. There is a good balance in the overall mix, meaning you won't have to high tail it to the remote every time the performers get randy. But don't expect some aural masterpiece.

The Extras:
If Sin City's DVD production skills excel in any area, it's in the inclusion of bonus content to their discs. This package contains 16 minutes of interviews with the main female cast members, some very enlightening and well-written biographies on the cast, a 20-plus minute behind the scenes making-of featurette, a reel of bloopers, isolated snippets of the all important pop (money) shots, a photo gallery and a healthy trailer compilation. Each in their own right is wonderful. The women really open up about their lack of acting skill/issues with positions in the Q&A. The backstage material gives a great deal of insight into how adult films are put together and the bloopers are quite funny and fascinating. But perhaps the best extra here is the non-sex scene specific audio commentary by director Clousot and an unnamed individual. This is one catty conversation with each and every actor (and some crew members) directly in Clousot's gossipy, putdown-filled firing line. You can never quite tell if he's kidding or serious. Steven St. Croix takes many of the hits, called everything from "farty" to "goofy" while many of the actresses are raked over the performance coals for their lack of thespian (not LESBIAN) skills. And interestingly, Clousot shuts up the minute the sex starts, figuring that people probably don't want to here a blow-by-blow accounting of a blow. Still, it's fascinating to listen to an adult filmmaker talk so openly and honestly about his craft and the people involved. When it's available, this commentary - like each of the other extras - is very good.

Final Thoughts:
Not really a parody, since it's neither funny nor farcical enough and hardly an all out action adventures because, frankly, director Clousot wouldn't know a good car chase (or all terrain vehicle volley) if one bit him in the ballsack, Angels is a decent idea only averagely executed. On the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, the film scores an overall 6/10 and is recommended, if only for some of the non-bedroom performances and the overall attractiveness of the cast. Still, the sex is rather flat and lifeless and there is little actual intensity between the performers. Couples will find this a very safe and sensual introduction into the world of porn and thus a Cohabitation Certification is granted. But this could have been so much better. If Angels was going to copycat the classic TV series or the modern Hollywood mega-hit, it could have done it in so many other, awesome ways. Why not have the Angels be poor spies, but great lovers, having to rely on their sex skills to get them out of jams. Why not make Zee a completely repulsive asshole, capable of S&M style cruelty to go along with his lust for power and greed. Have more flashes of firm flesh in pose down or provocative positions. Heck, how about just lightening the whole thing up for fuck's sake. Everyone is taking this trip down take-off lane far too seriously. Angels has potential and could really come alive in sequels (or even a series). But there is a lot of work to be done to iron out the derivativeness of what is onscreen. Harley needs to retrain his honeys before they make another stab at sexual spy superstardom.

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