Fallen Reviewby Curtis Edmonds (blueduck AT hsbr DOT org)
March 23rd, 1998
Curtis Edmonds -- [email protected]
"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." So says Kevin Spacey's character in The Usual Suspects, a far, far better movie than Fallen. Fallen stands for the opposite premise: that the devil walks among us and wants to convince us that he does exist. Or anyway, that he wants to convince Denzel Washington that he exists.
This devil's name is Azazel, and he's by far the most interesting character in Fallen, by virtue of being the only interesting character in Fallen. (In a movie like this, being interesting is a virtue.) Azazel is left-handed, enjoys injecting people with poison, and likes to sing a particular Rolling Stones song (no, not Sympathy for the Devil", but "Time is on My Side"). He has spent the last few years in prison, possessing the body of a serial killer, and when the killer is executed, Azazel is free to walk among us, transferring his evil nature from body to body by touch.
Azazel's motto, as one of the possessed tells us, is "maximum fun". Fun for Azazel is tormenting poor homicide detective John Hobbes (Washington), the only man that he can't enter through touch. So Azazel begins killing people in a style reminiscent of the recently-executed serial killer -- crimes that the baffled Hobbes is called on to solve, and is eventually suspected of committing himself.
Fallen has two specific obstacles to face, succeding in one and failing in the other. The first problem -- turning a powerful, invisible spirit into a movie villian -- is handled quite well. There's a couple of very nice scenes where we see Azazel transferred from host to host like the virus in Outbreak. Also, the people Azazel possesses carry around a Steadicam with some weird yellow filter on it, so the audience can see things from the demon's perspective. And the people that Azazel possesses are extremely well-cast. They all have a demonic glint in their eye when they're playing the part of Azazel.
The second problem is: how do you make all this interesting? Well, you don't. The main problem with this movie is Washington's character, who is written to be dull and plodding. Denzel, like the good actor he is, dutifully plays his part in a dull and plodding style -- although he's not able to outdo his partner John Goodman, who's so boring he's almost narcoleptic. And the movie ambles slowly along, following Detective Hobbes along the connect-the-dots plot of the gratuitous little clues that Azazel leaves strewn everywhere. There's nothing in the movie to lighten its leaden tread.
Fallen is Moviemaking Light: a thriller with no thrills, an interesting premise with no substance, a decent twist ending that comes about a half-hour too late, featuring good actors trapped inside a mindless script. One wants to ask the writers and producers filmed this pointless, overlong story, but the answer seems guaranteed to be: "The devil made me do it." The greatest trick this movie could pull off would be in making us believe that it never existed.
Curtis "BlueDuck" Edmonds
The Hollywood Stock Brokerage and Resource
"I don't want to study law," she said with the
same tone as if she had been saying, "I don't
want to turn into a cockroach."
-- Mark Helprin, "A Soldier of the Great War"
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