WE'RE NO ANGELS
Review by Gordon Justesen
Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Demi Moore, Hoyt Axton, Bruno Kirby, James Russo
Director: Neil Jordan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: February 17, 2004
all going to fry for the guards we shot."
ME, EXCUSE ME, EXCUSE ME--YOU shot the guards, Bob."
With names like
Robert De Niro and Sean Penn, one would normally expect a film of great dramatic
conviction. A film were youíd see two actors, both known for injecting
realistic emotions in their performance, create a memorable piece that would
haunt you for days. Both actors have accomplished that very task; De Niro in The
Deer Hunter and Raging Bull, and Penn in Dead
Man Walking and, most recently, Mystic
So it may seem
surprising, even 15 years down the road, that in 1989 these two ultra-serious
actors paired up for a comedy where they played two slightly inept escaped
convicts disguised as priests. They did just that, and although it couldíve
been a risky gesture by both of them, Weíre
No Angels turned out to be a most pleasant surprise. It was pure proof that
even the most serious of actors had a goofy side, and De Niro and Penn displayed
it perfectly here. This actually wasn't the first time either of them had acted
in a comedy. If you remember, Pennís breakthrough work was in no less than the
comedy classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont
The film is both
adapted from a play and a remake of a 1955 Humphrey Bogart movie of the same
name. Set in the 1930s, the movieís plot involves two imprisoned convicts, Ned
(De Niro) and Jim (Penn), who are given a chance to start over. This comes
thanks in part to an incident instigated by fellow, and much more crazed inmate,
Bobby (James Russo). The incident results in the two being able to escape the
prison entirely. In order to elude the authorities indefinitely, Ned and Jim
need to make it to the nearby Canadian border. Sounds easy, but first the two
will have to undergo a certain disguise as a small border town in Maine is the
only thing standing between them and their freedom.
grows even more heated when the two are suddenly mistaken for a couple of
priests. Members of the town turn out to be very sweet natured, as they provide
the two unsuspecting individuals with shelter in the local monastery. They
eventually decide to go along with the gag until they feel the time is right to
make a quick cut to the very bridge that connects the town to Canada. Their
dilemma isnít helped, either, when Ned finds he is the target of attraction by
Molly (Demi Moore), a town resident and single parent.
mistaken identity plot scenario was dated even by 1989ís standards, the level
of talent both behind and in front of the camera makes all the difference in the
filmís success. It certainly helps when your screenplay is written by David
Mamet. Both actors are given funny individual moments. De Niro is asked to
comfort a wounded person, with having absolutely no knowledge of what he must
do, and Penn has a scene where he must delver a sermon to the townspeople. Both
scenes reach levels of brilliantly inspired goofiness.
Directed by Neil
Jordan, and beautifully shot by Philippe Rousselot, one of cinemaís most
outstanding cinematographers, Weíre No
Angels is light, but harmless fun as two of our most outstanding actors take
a break from the norm and endure a moment on the goofy route. Itís interesting
to watch in this time period because, although De Niro has recently appeared in
numerous comedies, I donít think itís the kind of movie youíd see both of
these actors teaming up for today.
The turnout of any
of Paramountís catalogue titles is always never easy to predict. Sometimes
they turn up a bit better than you would expect, and other times they are
presented in a picture that, while not impressive, was probably as good as it
could appear. The anamorphic picture on Weíre
No Angels stunned me beyond words, because I hadnít really seen an 80s
movie from Paramount appear in such sharp glory, say maybe for a Star
Trek feature. Every shot in the film is presented in the utmost form of
clarity, and Rousselotís beautiful cinematography looks even more fantastic.
Truly one of the more surprising turnouts of recent memory.
The 5.1 track is
very much serviceable, even if the movie is a comedy based mostly on words than
anything else. Dialogue delivery is clean and clear as always, and the music
playback of the classy score by George Fenton is very much the highpoint of the
discís performance. Much well done!