Angel of Destruction (1994) – Crazy for action

Angel of Destruction, how could you possibly pass up a movie with a title that good? It has everything you could want too, from kickboxers in comically intense fight scenes, to a weird Cold War undercurrent, and pop star strippers performing original songs. Filmed mostly in the Philippines, supposedly standing in for Hawaii, it was produced by two genuine legends of cinema, Roger Corman – the master of low budget success with a ridiculously impressive list of actors and directors he gave their start to – and one of the pioneers of both Blaxploitation and US-Filipino martial arts crossovers, Cirio H Santiago. It is a cheesy, seedy, and dark film where justice gets served hot, and the women do a lot of arse-kicking.

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Running with the old ‘famous person hires a bodyguard to protect them from a psycho stalker’ narrative that was rather popular in the early 90s, Angel of Destruction isn’t exactly fresh. In fact, it’s essentially a remake of director Charles Philip Moore’s earlier Blackbelt, just with a couple of gender swaps. Moore borrows Santiago’s classic female fighter protagonist, in this case prolific stripper-playing martial artist Maria Ford, and sets her on a path of vengeance. I have to give credit to Moore for the fast one he pulls on you in the opening gambit, setting up Charlie Spradling in that role before something pretty gnarly happens. Elsewhere, though, the director tries hard to appeal with tacky stuff, like exotic dance routines and a mildly offensive veteran subplot. I guess the latter was meant to be another borrowing from Santiago, but just poorly handled.

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Thanks to a deranged Vietnam and Angola vet, Ford’s vaguely undercover cop, Jo, ends up acting as bodyguard to pop star stripper Delilah, one hit wonder Jessica Mark. I have no idea if stripping pop stars were around in the early 90s, but if not, Moore seems to have pulled a Nostradamus. This mysterious soldier-turned-mercenary Kell is played to the extreme by another first-and-last-timer, Jimmy Broome. He has a habit of dressing prostitutes as brides before slaughtering them, not to mention an obsession with Delilah. It’s strangely fortunate for Delilah this guy popped up when he did, though, as she already had troubles with her sleazy financier Lusio, Bob McFarland. Luckily, Jo is an impressively athletic martial artist – with a really white face for some reason – and has her cop boyfriend to back her up, another one-time actor in Antonio Bacci. I really find it hard to believe, with the relatively sound acting and solid fight choreography on display, that all these folks are one-off actors, yet I can’t find any hint of them being pseudonyms. Maybe the secrets were hidden and lost like Filipino treasure.

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The best part of Angel of Destruction is definitely the action. The intensity of the fight sequences, heightened by over the top sound effects and stunts, makes for a riot of a time. The actors handle themselves pretty well in the thick of it, something I’ve come to expect from US-Filipino martial arts pictures. It seems as if stunt regulations go out the window on these productions, just like the guy at the start of the movie. It gets fantastically brutal at times, with characters dropping their guns in favour of good old fashioned punch ups. Moore trades on the female attractions pretty hard, but it is a lot of fun to watch women punch through doors, or throw guys into tables and walls. Ford has an entire scene where she beats up on goons in a thong – props to here for getting through the shoot, but given her catalogue I’d say she was used to it. Speaking of goons, I don’t think the tight budget, of which the uncredited co-producer Corman is famous for, had any room for extras – the same small group plays just about every bad guy in the film. But hey, with all the bullet holes in their chests and fists in their faces, you almost can’t tell.

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What else is there to say about Angel of Destruction that the title doesn’t already? It has a shambolic and totally generic plot, and some absolutely delightful, over the top action to offer. It’s trashy and probably a bit tasteless, but Ford and Spradling, along with bad guy Broome, look cool flogging everyone in sight. It’s one straightforward, silly, pulse-pounding spectacle – so now you know what you’re getting yourself in to, go have a blast.

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