Fallen Review

by "Yen, Homer" (YenHo AT cof DOT org)
January 22nd, 1998

"Fallen" and Can't Get Up
by Homer Yen
(c) 1998

Some angels that are cast out of Heaven come down to Earth to inhabit unsuspecting souls. People just like you and me can become unwilling hosts to these impish beings that now exist for no other reason than to torment and spread evil. This is the seemingly far-fetched explanation offered to Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) who is in the course of investigating a series of murders and strange occurrences.

Hobbes becomes embroiled in this case shortly after Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas), a convicted killer that he was responsible for apprehending, was put to death. After Reese's execution, however, more murders patterned after Reese's style begin to occur. Mysterious, late-night phone calls taunt Hobbes and clues are left at the murder scenes daring Hobbes to comprehend what's really going on. Is it a case of a delusional, copycat murderer on the loose? Or is there a more sinister entity at work here?

"Fallen" ultimately takes on the form of a film noir with supernatural elements that pits a good-natured detective against an evil presence, known as Azazel. The movie offers us some interesting moments. Hobbes and his partner, Jonesy (John Goodman), reflect solemnly on the purpose of enforcing goodness knowing how strong evil is. We learn that Azazel is a force that can move from one host body to another through touch. At one point, on a busy, city street, pedestrians are quickly touching each other, as Azazel transports from one body to another as it pursues its next victim. And, there is a interesting subplot that revolves around a cop who experienced Hobbes' situation 30 years ago. As Hobbes learns more and more about the omnipotence of his evil-spirit opponent, a sense of combustibility begins to become more and more prevalent.

However, this movie teases us but never quite takes us past the Imagination Threshold (a point that moviegoers must pass in order to embrace such fantastical elements in this kind of film). Hobbes is the kind of honest cop that can only exist in a movie - never accepting a bribe, professing to do everything under a code of honor, adhering to the laws that are in place. Denzel Washington seems like an odd choice, with his soft demeanor and good looks. He never seems to really internalize the bizarre situation at hand. Jonesy doesn't add any spice to the movie's cast of characters and seems much too heavy to be an effective detective. And Donald Sutherland, playing the police department's lieutenant, is reduced to beady-eyed stares as he tries to monitor the progress of the investigation. His role is essentially wasted.

If this film was trying to adhere to the conventional parameters of a police thriller, it failed to engage us in the plight of Hobbes, even as Azazel continued to torment him. As a piece of film noir, however, it still faltered because the cast seemed completely out of their element. What this film lacked, oddly enough, was spirit.

Grade: C

More on 'Fallen'...

Originally posted in the rec.arts.movies.reviews newsgroup. Copyright belongs to original author unless otherwise stated. We take no responsibilities nor do we endorse the contents of this review.