Fallen Review

by Michael Redman (redman AT bvoice DOT com)
January 29th, 1998


A Film Review By Michael Redman
Copyright 1998 By Michael Redman

**1/2 (out of ****)

There are some concepts so deeply hard-wired into the human psyche that they appear in nearly every culture on the planet. The horror of demons loose on
the earth wreaking havoc and spreading evil is one of these. Films that deal
with universal subjects have an advantage before they even begin: they have already connected intimately.

Unfortunately "Fallen" doesn't go much further. It does feature an impressive cast and some cool flash, but those searching for substance will go hungry.

Police Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) has finally caught the serial killer he's been after and drops in on the execution to bring closure to that search. He stops by to visit the killer, Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas) before the long walk and is greeted by the manic dancing man yelling at him in Aramaic,
an ancient language. Reese meets his doom singing the Stones' "Time is on my side".
Add as that is, Hobbes believes the string of killings is over. Then more
deaths crop up with exactly the same M.O. He and his partner Jonesy (John Goodman) are mystified, especially so when the first murderer becomes the
second victim. Their superior Lieutenant Stanton (Donald Sutherland) suspects
a cop copy-cat killer.

Solving a riddle left at the scenes of the murders leads Hobbes to the case of
a detective who 30 years ago committed suicide when the department thought he
was dirty. This in turn sends him to Gretta Milano (Embeth Davidtz), the policeman's daughter who is now a theology professor.

At first she is reluctant to tell him anything about her father's death. When evidence mounts that Hobbes himself is the new killer, he goes on the run and shows up at her apartment. She is then a bit more forthcoming.

When the fallen angels were cast out of heaven, their punishment was that they became formless. Without a body of their own, they could possess a living
being, passing their essence from one to another effortlessly. Milano explains the demon Azazel that her father battled is what Hobbes faces now. He left
Reese at the moment of death and is currently moving through the population of the city.

Azazel enjoys playing with the detective. Possessing one after another of
Hobbes' fellow cops, the evil is passed along like a satanic game of tag.
"Time, time, time..." sings one to him. "...is on my side" chimes in the next. "...Yes it is," finishes a third. The song is repeated effectively throughout
the film. He sees a young girl on the street and hears "Time, time, time..."

The film starts out with a promises, but they turn out to be mostly empty
ones. The death of Reese is well executed. High-contrast grainy film shows the killers point of view as he sings and dances his way to the gas chamber. The incident is unsettling and sets the stage for what turns out to be undelivered.

The plot plods along unremarkably to its "shock" ending that is telegraphed in
a major scene long before. You have to wonder how the highly intelligent detective could be so un-thinking. While there are some impressive bits (the chase as Azazel flows through a crowd of people is outstanding), the parts in between these pull the movie down.

Washington is his usual cool self and never a disappointment. He's always entertaining to watch, but whoever is responsible for deciding to use his
voice as a narrative made an error. The voice-over isn't interesting in tonal quality and the words are just plain goofy.

Goodman is continuously a joy although in a minor role. His screen time could have been increased to the benefit of the film. Koteas is also a lively addition.
Sutherland, a wonderful actor, is wasted in his role. Stanton is an
interesting guy and the audience keeps waiting for him to do something. He
never does. The character has no character.

The relationship between the cops rings true. Director Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear" and Emmys for "Hill Street Blues", "LA Law" and "NYPD Blues") has it
down. Even the "Seven"-inspired scenes also work well. The primary problem is that the entire film is a build-up to an ending that lets down.

Philosophically there's a difficulty. With all these fallen angels inhabiting people and attempting to destroy mankind, who's around to battle them? A
couple of lowly humans? Where's the divine help? Are we to believe that
whoever's in charge tossed these almost all-powerful destructive fiends on
earth and told us to have a go at 'em. Scary thought.

"Fallen" is engaging enough to watch, but within a few days it'll fade from
your memory like most other could-have-beens. Maybe it should have been titled "Forgotten".
(Michael Redman has written this column for over 22 years and believes that, while it makes for juicy gossip, the reality of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's interaction is not much of our business and is probably just a publicity stunt for "Wag The Dog". But then, he also believes that "Time,
time, time...is on our side.")

[This appeared in the 1/29/98 "Bloomington Voice", Bloomington, Indiana.
Michael Redman can be contacted at [email protected]]

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