Crippled by a lame script, "Avenging Angelo" further devalues Sylvester Stallone's stock. Teamed here with a miscast Madeleine Stowe, Sly plays a bodyguard struggling to maintain a distance from the mobster's daughter he's been assigned to protect.

A romantic comedy crippled by a lame script and a serious absence of chemistry between the leads, “Avenging Angelo” further devalues star Sylvester Stallone’s stock after similarly misbegotten vehicles “Get Carter,” “Driven” and “D-Tox.” Teamed here with a woefully miscast Madeleine Stowe, Sly plays a bodyguard struggling to maintain a professional distance from the mobster’s daughter he’s been assigned to protect. Partly set and shot in Italy, the film bowed there to dismal business ahead of U.S. release and looks more likely to measure up in ancillary markets than multiplexes.

Seemingly aware that his time is running out, Mafia chieftain Angelo (a raspy-voiced Anthony Quinn in his final film role) extracts a promise from his trusted bodyguard, friend and surrogate son Frank (Stallone) to take care of the old man’s daughter Jennifer (Stowe). Raised by a Long Island couple, her true identity has been kept secret to everyone including herself, to avoid making her a target for rival Mob violence. When Angelo gets whacked, Frank lands on Jennifer’s doorstep to give her a crash course in family history.

A neurotic socialite who just kicked out her cheating husband, Jennifer initially is unimpressed both with her underworld heritage and her bodyguard. But when he unwittingly leads Angelo’s enemies to her, Frank’s protection becomes indispensable. At an opera performance, Jennifer warms to the idea of vendetta.

At this point, the script by Will Aldis and Steve Mackall goes from ineffectual to ridiculous as Frank steps back and lets Jennifer take on the Mob, armed only with an uplift bra and killer lipstick.

As out of her element as Stowe appears in the character’s scatty, edge-of-hysteria mode, she’s even further off-key working her charms on a wizened crime kingpin. She marries the mobster in an impromptu ceremony and then induces him to expire of a heart attack by shimmying out of sexy lingerie.

With neither actor communicating much real attraction beyond the characters’ growing friendship, the script plants the idea of romance rather mechanically. However, Frank is unable to articulate his feelings so Jennifer welcomes the attentions of smoldering Sicilian romance novelist Marcello (Raoul Bova), accepting an invitation to accompany him to Italy. But a clue from something Angelo said makes Frank realize Marcello is not what he seems and that Jennifer is once again in danger.

Leads appear to be acting in different films. Stallone has no character to play — conveying nothing about Frank beyond the fact that he’s loyal, stoic and loves to cook, Stallone aims for sleepy-eyed charm but delivers zero. Laboring under the misapprehension she’s in some kind of screwball farce, Stowe has some not unfunny moments but her qualities are fundamentally wrong for the role.

While Martyn Burke’s pedestrian direction and the film’s generic look do little to help, the big problem is a truly clunky screenplay that lays no foundation for any of the principal characters’ transitions, never focusing for long enough on romance, action or revenge elements to convince on any count. Comedy is just as inconsistent, even venturing into decidedly lowbrow territory with scenes involving a farting mobster.

Bill Conti’s jaunty, pasta-flavored score adds a minimum of zest.

Avenging Angelo

Production

A Medusa Film/CDI release (in Italy) of a Dante Entertainment presentation of a Quinta Communications/Cinema Holdings/Lionweed production. Produced by Tarak Ben Ammar, Stanley Wilson, Elie Samaha. Executive producers, Andrew Stevens, Kevin King, Paul Rosenblum. Co-producers, Tracee Stanley, Maureen Norton, James Holt. Directed by Martyn Burke. Screenplay, Will Aldis, Steve Mackall.

Crew

Camera (color, wide-screen), Ousama Rawi; editor, David Codron; music, Bill Conti; production designer, Eric Fraser; art directors, Evan Webber, Stefano Maria Ortolani; set decorator, Jaro Dick; costume designer, Denise Cronenberg; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS Digital/DTS Digital), Greg Chapman, Maurizio Argentieri; line producer, Mike Drake; assistant director, Myron Hoffert; casting, Mary Margiotta, Karen Margiotta. Reviewed at Pasquino Cinema, Rome, Sept. 12, 2002. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Frankie Delano - Sylvester Stallone Jennifer Barrett - Madeleine Stowe Marcello - Raoul Bova Angelo Allieghieri - Anthony Quinn
With: Harry Van Gorkum, Billy Gardell.
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