Robert Vincent O’Neill’s “Angel” is a fun mixture of a campy exploitation and a stern crime thriller that also conjures up some classic neo-noir overtones. The 1984 drama thriller about an under age prostitute trying to outwit a serial killer garners some clumsy plot elements but stands as a strong film overall. You’d figure it’d be distracting to be sucked in to a thriller starring a protagonist who hangs around an aged cowboy and a transvestite, but “Angel” gets the job done. Donna Wilkes gives a strong performance as young Molly Stewart, a high schooler by day who is also a prostitute by night.
During the after hours she walks the street known as “Angel” and uses her allure to attract men to help pay for her apartment with her disabled mother. She gets by with myriad eccentric neighbors, all of whom make their living on the streets. That becomes more and more harrowing when a serial killer begins viciously murdering prostitutes. Though he leaves no actual pattern or motive, police are baffled, while Angel is struggling to ensure her own safety. When one of Molly’s closest friends is killed, she arouses the attention of Police Lt. Andrews, who is investigating the case and takes a special interest in Angel.
Angel begins preparing herself for the worst, and seeks out a firearm to strike down the killer, especially now that she knows what he looks like. “Angel” sets up a lot of conflict and obstacles for our protagonist, who spends most of the film merely trying to survive and work through her job as a prostitute, and has to literally fight for her life. Wilkes’ turn is very good as she plays the young Angel who begins watching the only family she has slowly drop off the map as they become victims of the serial killer prowling Los Angeles. “Angel” can be quite entertaining with very stern dramatic tone of Angel who goes on the hunt for vengeance, and also finds it tougher and tougher to balance both of her identities.
There is an especially good sub-plot involving local jocks spotting her walking the streets and using it as an excuse for attempted rape. If anything brings down “Angel” is the tonal inconsistency, as it jumps from campy exploitation, sentimental drama, and crime thriller over and over, making the experience absolutely surreal. One moment Angel is bonding with Lt. Andrews about her tortured youth, and the next we’re watching a transvestite fist fighting the film’s killer. That said, “Angel” is entertaining and engrossing dramatic thriller with an interesting and simplistic but effective premise. Angel is an underrated heroine of the exploitation sub-genre.