Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Angels Hard as They Come
D: Joe Viola
Notable: Jonathan Demme (who produced and co-wrote) and Scott Glenn work together 20 years before "Silence of the Lambs"; first film role for Gary Busey
Hippies and "good" bikers vs "bad" bikers
When their drug deal is interrupted by the cops, Long John (Scott Glenn) and some other Angels far from home decide to hang around a couple days and complete the transaction when the heat dies down. John, Monk (James Igelhart), and Juicer (Don Carerra) meet up with some members of the Dragons, who invite them to party and crash at the old ghost town they'd taken over from the hippies squatting there.
John meets flower chick Astrid (Gilda Texter, later seen riding a cycle nude in "Vanishing Point"), and the two are intrigued by and attracted to each other; unfortunately, the Angels also meet General (Charles Dierkop), the insane and Napoleon-like Dragons president. The paranoid General and his right hand man Axe (Gary Littlejohn) don't much care for the Angels, and begin showing it.
In a darkly shot scene, a Dragon starts to rape Astrid, and John bursts in to her rescue. A chaotic fight ensues, Astrid ends up stabbed to death, and the Angels are blamed. Though they're clearly innocent --and John suggests that maybe the killer was a Dragon looking to take out General-- they're tried in a kangaroo court and held in the old town jail. And Henry (Gary Busey) and the rest of the hippies aren't much help, at least at first, but their club brothers from earlier are starting to wonder where they are.
This is kind of a strange one. It aims fairly high with the violence as entertainment and senselessness of violence themes, but offers some cheap thrills of its own, like trying to have it both ways. The Angels were sentenced to "The Games," which includes being dragged down dirt streets and a game of "chopper ball," where they're surrounded, hands bound, in the desert by pool cue-wielding Dragons on motorcycles. And for all of Henry's anti-violence speeches, it's some serious ass kicking that saves the day.
The pacing is odd as well, moving briskly along here and getting bogged down there. Monk escapes into the desert but the bike breaks down, and the attention to his trek feels like padding to me. It feels, in fact, like it was prolonged just to have some racist on a dune buggy fuck with him for a bit.
Though three Angels are captured, it almost seems like it's just Glenn, who takes the role seriously and it shows. Monk ends up on his own, and Juicer is a pretty thin character, played by Don Carerra in a performance you'll never remember. Kristofferson lookalike Dierkop has a blast as the completely insane General, and Littlejohn is always reliably greasy. Some good minor bikers as well, like John Raymond Taylor as Crab (because...oh, you know). Dirty Denny, the first biker seen, has three credits under three names. Three checks? Doubtful.
Some of the music is ok, with a neat fuzz & tablas instro into the theme song, which goes for a Band type sound (with Levon Helm type vocals even). I should mention somewhere that there are some pretty nice titties in this one.
For Scott Glenn's performance (and those titties), "Angels Hard as They Come" gets a 3.5.