A detective and his partner track down a supernatural killer.
In “Fallen” we follow detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington, “The Book of Eli”, “The Equalizer”) and his partner Jonesey (John Goodman, “Barton Fink”, “Kong Skull Island”) as they work to uncover a copycat of a killer that Hobbes recently captured and is waiting on death row. When Hobbes talks to the killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas, “The Thin Red Line”), he tells Hobbes that he's actually the demon Azazel inside the killer’s body and more is to come. The kills continue happening and are all similar in the manner of execution to Reese’ killings, and each kill provides cryptic clues to help the two detectives along the way. As the plot thickens and events unfold, something supernatural takes form and the investigation takes different twists and turns to get to its gritty conclusion, which sets it apart from many crime films of this nature.
The police procedural genre has been done to death (especially in the mid to late 90s), and “Fallen” comes hot off the heals of one of the more popular ones, David Fincher's "Se7en". These films have a very familiar grit to them; the colors are bleak, the city matches that tone, the police office reeks of corruption. “Fallen” may take a few aesthetics from Fincher's film, but it's more inspired than it is a straight copy. It goes without saying that "Se7en" is a superior film, but Fallen still has plenty of good ideas to offer to this already bloated genre.
When the supernatural element of the demon Azazel is presented early on in the film, that's when intrigue is piqued: it's the main thing that sets this movie apart from a lot of films in it's league. It brushes with being a horror film, but I'd rather call it a supernatural detective thriller, because there aren't any real scares or disturbing imagery to really drive the horror elements. The idea that our protagonist is in a cat and mouse game with a demon is a pretty cool concept, but I believe the ambitions of the director do exceed his grasp. I think if this idea was give to a more seasoned director than Gregory Hoblit (“Primal Fear”) then we might have gotten a stronger film.
Some of the effects especially when people are being possessed look horribly hokey and amateur. A lot of the story suffers from stuttered beats and confusing dialogue, and exposition that just lays everything out to audience without ever letting them think for themselves. When Hobbes is led to Gretta (Embeth Davidtz, “Army of Darkness”) she fully describes the demon Azazel in full all while providing her backstory as to how she knows so much. It's lazy filler and really detracts from the mystery of the film
What could've been a really excellent supernatural thriller, is really just a mildly entertaining two hours. The feel and aesthetic are on point, borrowing color palettes and atmosphere from other, better films but all while retaining it's own organic feels; the characters aren’t clones and are specifically written (albeit none of them are particularly memorable or provide anything really new); the performances are fine; and you’ll be humming The Rolling Stones’ “Time is on my Side” long after the credits roll. It has a good solid central story, but it's told in the wrong manner. Maybe with a veteran director behind the camera this could've been a big hit with rave reviews, but unfortunately that's not the case. Fallen suffers from too much exposition and too many silly plot holes to make it stand above the crowd. It's a really good idea that's not brought to its full potential. I don't think it deserves negative reviews, just neutral ones, it's by no means a bad film, it just doesn't quite hit the mark it so desperately wants to, but with an underdeveloped script and a villain that never truly reaches full menace, Fallen just isn't quite good enough to stand with the elites of the police procedural genre.
I give Fallen 3 stars out of 5.
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