"Angel of Death" is, indeed, a movie collected from episodes of an action/crime show that aired exclusively online. Luckily enough, this isn't a fact that you need to dwell on while you're watching the film: unlike other 'movies' compiled from TV episodes - like The Crow - Stairway To Heaven or a number of "Walker, Texas Ranger" features - "Angel of Death" feels pretty much like a real film on its own, without intentional restraints on story progression and individual scenes. Got it? Good. Now we can focus on the other things it is - a very good solo debut for stuntwoman Zoe Bell, the real heroine behind Lucy Lawless in Xena and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.
The story: Eve (Bell) is the archetypal assassin - deadly, efficient, and utterly remorseless - but when a job gone bad and leaves her with a knife blade in her head, a haunted conscience is forced upon her, urging her to unravel a web of organized crime and take down the figures responsible for mass pain and suffering.
If you've seen the trailer for the film, the knife-in-the-head scene undoubtedly caught your eye, and I'm happy to say that that kind of grittiness is persistent throughout the film. It's not a gore flick, but action director Ron Yuan (Black Dynamite) wrangles some remarkable moments of realistic hand-to-hand violence between Eve and her opponents. This is where Zoe Bell's expertise as a stuntwoman comes in: sure, it's great to see an actress tae kwon doing somebody in the face, but to see her thrown up against walls, flung down stairs, and slammed against the ground repeatedly - with her face in clear sight - is a rare bit of practicality that we don't get to see very often and instantly distinguishes Bell from, say, Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil. She's like an old-school Cynthia Rothrock without the wires - tough-as-nails and legitimately entertaining to watch in action - and it will be a Hollywood tragedy if she doesn't get many more prime roles like this one.
The film runs at a slim 78 minutes in length, moving at a swift pace that allows you to enjoy its strengths and glance over its weaknesses - namely, a few underdeveloped main characters (like Jake Abel from Percy Jackson & The Olympians as the head gangster and Vail Bloom of "The Young and the Restless" as his two-faced sister) and storyline tangents (e.g. Eve's romance with her employer, the black book). The movie goes for a comic book-style presentation that is neither very effective nor detracting from the overall look. The supporting cast is strong, with Brian Poth (C.S.I. Miami) doing well as Eve's employer, Doug Jones (Pan's Labyrinth) proving himself entertaining even without a ton of makeup, and Ingrid Rogers (Carlito's Way) and Lucy Lawless make promising cameos.
Despite its smooth production, "Angel of Death" still feels like a pretty small movie, albeit one with a lot of potential to build on. Chances are that it's not going to knock you down or become your new favorite movie, but it deserves recognition for being a lot more solid than a lot of what's being put onto the DTV market right now. If you like seeing kickbutt in general, pick it up for something out of the ordinary and I'll be surprised if you end up disappointed.