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Originally published Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Movie review

'Angel of Evil': Gangster portrayal lifts ordinary crime drama

A movie review of "Angel of Evil," a so-so crime drama but effective character study of Milanese mobster Renato Vallanzasca, played superbly by Kim Rossi Stuart.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Angel of Evil,' with Kim Rossi Stuart. Directed by Michele Placido, from a screenplay by Placido, Stuart, Antonio Leotti, Toni Trupia, Andrea Leanza and Antonella D'Agostino. 125 minutes. Rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use. Varsity, Pacific Place.

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Somewhere in Voghera, Italy, a real-life, 60-year-old career criminal named Renato Vallanzasca, who has spent a combined 40 years behind bars, is let out of prison for a few hours every day to work nearby as a laborer.

Considering what we learn about Vallanzasca in Michele Placido's "Angel of Evil," a so-so crime drama but an effective character study of the Milanese mobster, it's amazing authorities would let him out of sight even for a minute.

Not that Vallanzasca, a pop-culture legend in Italy, necessarily poses an imminent danger. But the man we come to know in this film, who committed a number of robberies, kidnappings and murders in the 1970s — followed by multiple jailbreaks — has an extraordinary drive to live life on his own terms.

In scene after scene, Vallanzasca goes to great lengths, sacrificing his freedom for others and defying authority to the point he accepts beatings as part of his condition. If he finds a chink in prison security, he exploits it with gusto to breathe free air.

Italian actor Kim Rossi Stuart is superb as Vallanzasca. Stuart's compelling blend of incisiveness and lethal impulsiveness smoothes out the story's chunky, episodic structure, and he reveals the complexities in this man-monster via key relationships.

Otherwise, as a tale of squabbling gangsters and prison intrigues, "Angel of Evil" is ordinary.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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