The colors strewn throughout the opening scenes in "Angel"-the first film directed by Irish author Neil Jordan-have a flattened-out dullness to them. The green fields of 80s-era Ireland seem trampled over. Shadows seem to be painted onto faces. Even the neon sign of the "Dreamland" club seems to be on the verge of burning out. It's only once we're onstage with Danny (Jordan's regular muse, Stephen Rea,) illuminated by a spotlight, that evidence of dimensionality arises. He's backing his own band, playing sax, and that one light leaves him with an afterglow that looks conspicuously like a halo. "I can see it when you play," his singer Deidre will later tell him, "You're charmed." She's correct that he's got something hanging over him. But "charmed" might not be the right word for it.
Danny and Deidre spend some of their nights together, but he hardly appears to be tied-down. He's got the eyes of an incorrigible flirt. And on the first night we spend with him, they gaze toward a young deaf-mute girl who's perpetually stationed at the aptly-named club. The pair are out in the fields after the night's performance-that's when the first shots ring out. A group of hooded gunmen have executed Danny's band manager, after an act of extortion gone wrong. And the young girl, confused by the chaos, allows herself to stumble into sight. She takes the next shots as a result, dying shortly afterwards. And then everybody speeds off-leaving only Danny, in his performer's monkey suit, to comfort the expiring bodies. He's a tragic figure. But he also looks as ineffective as a court jester.
Twilight Time's Blu-ray release features an isolated score music and effects track as the lone extra. But the top-quality high-definition transfer of the long-underseen film is reason enough to justify a Blu-ray release-there's no way this movie has ever looked better outside of movie theaters. There's also a booklet included, featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo, who comprehensibly places "Angel" in the center of Jordan's oeuvre: she connects bits and pieces of its DNA to almost all the works that the director has created since. But her essay also goes where the film demands it must: toward the Troubles, and towards the socioeconomic implications of the twisted morality "Angel" depicts.
Jordan's film follows Danny through two different sets of engagements: his loose relationships with women, and his tightly-gripped dedication to enacting vengeance on those involved with the Dreamland murders. What's hanging over him, and the movie, are the Troubles, as they're known. When one character volunteers that he's Jewish, he's immediately asked a follow-up question: "Are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?" Yet those political elements are rarely mentioned otherwise. All the anxiety and anger felt on the margins on conflict is here abstracted. That Danny wears his vivid-purple get-up during one of his revenge killings seems particularly significant. He's wrestling control back his own way, maybe-but it's just another performance.