Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Angel Town


Directed by: Eric Karson
Screenplay: S. Warren
Starring: Olivier Gruner, Peter Kwong, Theresa Saldana, Frank Aragon

Action star and all round cool French man Olivier Gruner made an impressive debut in the now somewhat dated but still entertaining Angel Town. An urban drama with a heavy dose of fight action, Gruner plays Jacques who has recently relocated to LA to further his studies. Having trouble finding suitable accommodation he rents a room from a single mother (Saldana) who lives deep in the ghetto area of LA. She’s desperately trying to keep her son from getting embroiled with a local gang and when Jacques intervenes to help save the boy, the gang soon target Jacques and his new surrogate family leading to all out war.

Made during the American martial arts movie boom, Angel Town was a decent launching pad for Gruner and his high kicking skills. Reminiscent of Van Damme pictures of the time (you can almost hear the producers screaming, quick get another French speaking kickboxer and stick him in a movie!), Angel Town benefits from Gruner’s enthusiastic first screen performance, the gritty urban setting and some solid direction from The Octagon and Black Eagle director, Eric Karson. Sure it’s mega dated now, though the urban LA locations do give it the feel of authenticity, and it’s all a bit daft but it delivers the requisite kickboxing thrills with a nice measure of drama.

While Gruner maybe could have flexed his fight skills a bit more, the fight scenes are executed with brutal efficiency making good use of his kicking ability. There are some fun and authentic looking training scenes showing Jacques training with his American buddy, played by Peter Kwong (The Gold Child, Steele Justice), but the showstopper is the climactic free for all fight when the gang besiege Jacques residence. Stunt/fight coordinator Jeff Imada (Death Warrant, Rapid Fire) pulls out all the stops in a tense and tough showdown featuring all manner of high kicking takedowns and shotgun blasting action.

Angel Town is still one of Gruner’s most entertaining flicks (and look out for an early and non-fighting appearance from Mark Dacascos) that serves as a decent action drama not to mention a time capsule of late 80s/early 90s American martial arts/urban cinema.

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