Where Angels Dance (1994) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

One thumb enthusiastically up, the other somewhat non-committal, edging slightly toward down. 

Tuna's comments in white.

Where Angels Dance (1994) is a film you are not likely to have heard about. It has never had a theatrical release, and is not listed at IMDB. It is finally being released on DVD next Tuesday. Most of the production facts in this review are from an exclusive Funhouse interview with Patrick Coppola, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in this film. Coppola has struggled for 7 years trying to get distribution for this film, but it has only been screened at a handful of festivals. He was unable to find out why nobody would pick it up. Indeed, even Blockbuster refused to release it as a rental. I am dumfounded, as this is an exceptionally good character driven drama..

Coppola plays Alex Blake, an ex fighter who works second shift (the lonely man's shift), and keeps to himself. Things change for him because of two women, a hooker trapped under a sadistic pimp, and a Harvard Psychology student working on her doctorate who moves into his apartment. Alex is a nice guy, but has a lot of rage inside, which gives him a temper that he has more and more trouble controlling. We slowly learn through the course of the film why he lost his will to fight, and how interactions with the two totally opposite women end up causing him to "fight his fight." So, the main plot line is one man's redemption, but it is the sub-plots and rich characters that make this film what it is. 


see the main commentary
Lauren Martin (As the World Turns, Another World) plays the Psych student, who is sleeping with one of her professors and decides to make Alex her doctoral thesis. We see her breasts in two different love scenes. She ends up nearly falling for Alex. His relationship with the hooker, Ayo Hanes, is purely platonic. He decides that she needs saving, and makes doing it "his fight." Everything about this film is top-notch. The screenplay is masterfully written. For instance, Alex's friend, at the beginning of the film, is waiting in line with him to go into a dance club. He has a short conversation with two shadowy figures in an alley, and once inside, asks Alex to buy the drinks because he is broke. This sets the background for events near the end of the film. It is in the club that his friend meets Belinda Carroll (Sister of Kate O'Mara), who he is later seen in bed with (her breasts are briefly visible).

Another example of the tight writing is a beat cop, who is introduced in a diner. When he tells the ex-hooker/waitress that she will be seeing him often, she tells him the coffee will be free for him. He has no moral problem accepting the gratuity. This insight into his character also explains events near the end of the film. There is breast exposure from several unknown strippers in the film. Flashback sequences, which explain his boxing career were shot in B&W, which seemed a perfect choice, as it showed a change of time frame and location. These flashbacks were kept to a minimum. The film didn't have a single word of voice-over, had one of the cleverer expository gimmicks I have ever seen (Alex called a sports talk show, and anonymously asked about his fight career), and developed thoroughly fleshed out characters with, in some cases, a minimum of screen time.

Although the DVD is not a very good transfer, it is obvious that the photography is excellent. The DVD was mastered from video, which was mastered from an old positive. I am sure the film would be spectacular if re-mastered from the original negatives. It was shot on a budget of $70,000.00 in 18 days in 35mm. Another $100,000.00 was spent in post production, for a total budget of around $175K. Coppola is "Coppola Entertainment/Five Angels Productions," and also did one of the films I will be doing tomorrow. I give this film an enthusiastic thumb up.

DVD info 

  • not available from Amazon

  • no widescreen

  • no features

Scoop's comments:

To each his own, I guess. I watched this because Tuna was so impressed with it. Although the script is similar to the realistic social dramas of Clifford Odets, especially "Golden Boy", I thought it was quite a few levels lower. I found it to be an average inner city drama in terms of the characterization, film technique, and script. I though it was far below average in terms of performing. Some of the actors appear to be people recruited from the streets in order to deliver a few lines inexpensively. Coppola himself is quite stiff, and tends to stand aloof from the other actors. Although that aloofness turned out to be generally OK for this character, some of his lines seemed to be unnaturally delivered, and some of the fight scenes are poorly choreographed with obviously false punches.

I was impressed by the ending, which avoided a Hollywood cop-out, sent both of the women away to other lives, and sent our hero back to his apartment, still lonely and jobless, but with his internal rage quieted and an improved outlook for the future.

The print, as Tuna noted, is dreadful - dark, blurry, shadowy and poorly contrasted. There is no widescreen version, and there are no features at all.

The Critics Vote

  • not reviewed

The People Vote ...

  • not listed at IMDB, and no theatrical release
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is between a C- (Scoopy) and a B- (Tuna)

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