Fallen Review

by Walter Frith (wfrith AT netinc DOT ca)
January 20th, 1998


A movie review by Walter Frith

One thing I found disappointing in 1973's 'The Exorcist', is that despite its tremendous entertainment value, it exploited the premise of demonic possession without telling you much about it. It made up for this flaw by showcasing an absolutely blistering climax as two priests try and rid Satan from the body of a little girl. William Peter Blatty did win an Oscar for his adapted screenplay, based on the book, so he must have done something right.

'Fallen' has a similar problem but can't touch the classic stature of a film like 'The Exorcist' by any stretch of the imagination. It's premise of soul transformation is an intriguing one but it has no line of explaining the history or theological origins traced to the heart of its story.

Denzel Washington is always impressive (has he ever made a truly awful movie?) All right, I'll give you 'Heart Condition' (1990) and maybe 'Ricochet' (1991) but the Oscar winning actor always finds the right style even in films that are mediocre.

Washington stars as a California detective who pays a final visit to a convicted felon he help capture (Elias Koteas) who is about to be executed and deep down, Washington relishes the fact that the low life is about to succumb to the lethal forces of the gas chamber and Koteas tries to make final contact with Washington by attempting to shake hands with him.

Upon execution, Koteas sings a familiar song just before which comes back to haunt Washington later in the film along with other characteristics of the criminal's behaviour.

Unusual occurrences begin to surface as a series of murders occur in the city and Washington finds a familiar pattern to it all. People begin confronting him and sing the song that Koteas sang at his execution and this drums up suspicions that the killer's soul is being transferred into the bodies of innocent people. It seems that the soul can change bodies at will upon the act of a simple touch by one person to another and the movie can't escape the fact that anything that routine is simply not a believable premise for a movie. The movie spends virtually its entire first hour doing this and becomes tedious after the first 45 minutes.

Washington seeks advice from a theologian (Embeth Davidtz) and is dealing with his partner (John Goodman) through all of this and the skeptical tone of his boss (Donald Sutherland). Goodman and Sutherland are instrumental in the film's final resolution which the audience can see coming a mile away.

Director Gregory Hoblit ('Primal Fear') uses repetitive pseudo slow motion shots that stretch and skew across the movie screen in a deeply coloured and grainy manner as a way of showing the perception of evil and I found it to be a tiresome and gruesome trick that was over used and reminiscent of a Brian DePalma film.

Writer Nicholas Kazan ('Reversal of Fortune'), has penned a shallow and unimaginative film of wannabe gothic proportions and instead of coming up with a story that should have characters we care about, it fails because it doesn't showcase an acceptable form of depth and therefore contains a story we ultimately care nothing about.

OUT OF 5 > * *

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