Fallen (1998)
Directed by Gregory Hoblit

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* *

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John Hobbes (Denzel Washington), a police detective investigating a series of murders, comes to suspect that they may have been committed by a demon.

Gregory Hoblit's Fallen is a forgettable, hackneyed mystery film. The acting is often decent, but it is generally uninteresting or even exaggerated. The dialogue is uninspired and the story is trite and predictable. In fact, there is very little in the movie for which it can be praised.

The characters inhabiting the director's bromidic tale are all utterly forgettable. Hobbes himself is a decent, honorable man who is good to his nephew and his mentally handicapped brother. His partner, Jonesy (John Goodman), is a likeable, quirky, and earthy individual, and his superior, Lt. Stanton (Donald Sutherland), is always making his life difficult. There is not one of these persons who is likely to engage the viewer.

Not surprisingly, Hoblit does absolutely nothing imaginative with this utterly tiresome group of individuals. The viewer is, consequently, unlikely to be surprised by any part of the movie's story, whether it is Hobbes' initial disbelief in the supernatural, his eventual conversion, his heroism in defending the innocent, his encounters with a woman, Gretta (Embeth Davidtz), who knows more about his enemy than she is at first willing to admit, or his solitary struggle with the hellish monster which is tormenting him. Even the movie's conclusion, which resembles those of countless other horror films, is dully foreseeable.

Visually, Fallen is just as undistinguished as it is in every other way. However, while most of the movie is utterly pedestrian, it does include a few moments that are delightfully atrocious. When, for example, the director presents the viewer with his monster's point of view, he bathes the film's images in washed out greens and yellows and tilts everything to the left. The poor creature must have had absolutely terrible vision.

Sadly, the movie is even further weakened by its reliance on Christian mythology. There are just so many films that tell a story about some threat posed by yet another of Satan's minions, who generally, as here, has some special power that gives a supposedly unique twist to the movie in which that fiend has been included, that I simply cannot engage with such works. What is more, because Fallen's narrative asserts the accuracy of this system, those persons who are not Christians, and who are not able to let go of their own beliefs and temporarily embrace the ideology presupposed in the movie, as well as those individuals who find that particular mythology simplistic or uninteresting, are likely to be troubled or bored with the film.

Fallen really is forgettable, but, be that as it may, it is never so bad that it is unwatchable. Although the viewer may occasionally be annoyed by its conceits and faults, and may never be enraptured by any of its elements, he is still likely to be reasonably entertained for much of its duration.

Review by Keith Allen

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