Blu-ray Review: Angel (aka Danny Boy) (1982) - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Boutique label Twilight Time specializes in issuing a wide variety of films—from Oscar-winning classics to cult favorites—on Blu-ray for the first time, making them available in strictly limited editions (usually 3,000, though occasionally they'll announce a 5,000-copy run). Before the batch of October films releases (the pre-order period is open), which includes several highly-anticipated fright flicks just in time for Halloween, it's time to take a quick look at one of the most recently-released entries in their Limited Edition series.

Produced in Ireland, Angel is the 1982 directorial debut of Neil Jordan, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who hit pay dirt with The Crying Game. Jordan of course has many other highly-regarded films under his belt (Mona Lisa, Michael Collins, among others) so this presents a terrific opportunity to see a real obscurity—the one which kicked off his career. Jordan's stylistic maturity is already evident in this dark-hued thriller set against the backdrop of the Northern Ireland conflict, then roughly in the middle of what wound up a three-decade struggle.

Stephen Rea, a repeat player throughout Jordan's filmography, stars as Danny (the film is also known as Danny Boy), the sax player in a working road band. He's a likable lout who's life is turned topsy-turvy after witnessing the murders of his manager (who was involved in questionable business practices) and an innocent witness. Though initially not especially motivated by anything but his music, the crimes spur him to take matters into his own hands when law enforcement appears to be unable to bring the killers to justice. Danny's life goes from bad to much worse, as he heads down a dark path of violent criminality himself.

In addition to a convoluted third act, Angel probably plays better to someone with a fairly informed background the state of early-'80s Ireland and of the Northern Ireland nationalists, known as The Troubles. I've been reading about it a bit, but I have no problem admitting to general ignorance of the political background that frames Angel.

Cinematographer Chris Menges would go on to work with Neil Jordan multiple times (including Michael Collins and The Good Thief) and win Oscars for non-Jordan films The Killing Fields (1983) and The Mission (1986). Twilight Time's Blu-ray of Angel, the film's first appearance in high definition, offers a gloriously gritty transfer of what was a low-budget, indie work. It looks great, especially considering its age and status as a largely forgotten film. Paddy Meegan is credited as music arranger, and the music also sounds great in lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo.

As is sometimes the case with Twilight Time releases, we only get an isolated music track (and film historian Julie Kirgo's newly-penned liner notes) as a bonus. Visit Screen Archives, TT's official distributor, for ordering information while supplies last.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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