Inspired by true events, El Angel follows sociopathic teenager Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) as his criminal endeavors are elevated significantly after he connects with Ramon (Chino Darín) and his felonious father. It’s a fairly interesting premise that’s employed to persistently (and distressingly) underwhelming effect by director Luis Ortega, as the filmmaker, working from a script written alongside Rodolfo Palacios and Sergio Olguín, delivers a deliberately-paced and often excessively spare narrative that’s almost entirely devoid of standout interludes. (The movie’s obvious highlight is a very late-in-the-game prison escape sequence, which, when coupled with an admittedly strong conclusion, ensures that the movie at least ends on a positive note.) The less-than-engrossing atmosphere is especially disappointing given the picture’s proliferation of stirring elements, as Ortega effectively elicits solid work from his various performers and infuses the proceedings with a stylish, evocative feel that’s generally difficult to resist (eg there’s a decent stretch set to a Spanish-language version of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.”) It’s nevertheless impossible to deny that much of El Angel comes off as uninvolving and curiously flat, with the absurdly padded-out length of almost two hours undoubtedly playing a key role in cementing the movie’s failure (ie the lack of momentum here stems primarily from an ungainly running time) – which is a shame, certainly, given the potential afforded by the setup and the talent on both sides of the camera.
** out of ****