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'Angel of Death' rises from the ashes of 'Xena'

Date: 7/27/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

A venerable cop drama from Great Britain and a new action picture are in this week's DVD column.

Angel of Death

Zoe Bell is not a name that many mainstream or casual film fans might recognize, but they may know her work. For years, she was the stunt double for Lucy Lawless on the popular "Xena: Warrior Princess" series and she was Uma Thurman's double on the "Kill Bill" films.

Her first on-camera star turn came in Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" - half of the "Grindhouse" double feature. Although I fell asleep during some of the inane dialogue scenes in the film - that's a fact - Bell's action work in the film was great.

"Angel of Death," her new film, gives her plenty of opportunity to show off her stunt skills and illustrates she has some acting chops as well.

Scripted by comic book writer Ed Brubaker, the movie was first a series of chapters on Sony Pictures Web-based television network Crackle. Additional footage was shot to assemble it into a feature.

This is the second such DVD I've watched recently in which the business plan was to launch the content on the Web and then go to DVD - and I'm sure eventually cable television sales. This is a very interesting business model.

The film is about Eve, a cold-blooded female assassin who is stabbed in the head during a hit. The knife doesn't kill her, but instead causes a profound change: Eve starts seeing a young girl, an unintended victim, who directs her to kill the people who ordered the murder.

Eve then starts tracing the chain of command back to the head of the local mob, killing pretty much everyone in her wake.

Although the DVD is unrated and had a prominent sticker on it warning of "adult content," the film would be a middle of the road "R" if rated.

Lawless herself makes a solid little cameo appearance while Ted Raimi, a regular on "Xena," is practically unrecognizable in a lineless role of a murder victim.

Paul Etheredge's direction is clearly trying to creating a 2009 film noir, but the problem is that Eve doesn't generate much sympathy needed to be an anti-hero in my book. He also tries to make the film look like a comic book at times through editing and graphic elements. I'm not sure exactly why he does this, but what the heck.

The DVD has a full selection of "making of" features and even has Bell's screen test for the role.

Only Bell's stunt work and steely performance makes this film a step above the average direct-to-DVD production.

A Touch of Frost: Season 14

Attempting to watch episodes of a very long-running police drama from another country sounds like a thankless proposition, but I was surprised that I enjoyed as much of "A Touch of Frost" as I did.

The number one police drama from the UK stars Davis Jason as Inspector Jack Frost, a crusty, wily old vet whose love for cutting corners has brought him from duty in London to the much smaller town of Denton.

Frost is one of those TV police guys like Jack Friday - he doesn't seem to have a life outside of his job and Jason plays him with a bit of perverse dark charm. Frost seems to know he only exists as a cop and has apparently come to terms with it.

For being a small town, Denton is abuzz with murder and crime and these well-written police shows feature several cases during one episode.

If you're into detective programs, you should try "A Touch of Frost." Don't worry, you'll get used to the English slang pretty quick.