Fallen

For all its classy cast and glum polish, this metaphysical horror picture with big things on its mind lacks the malevolent buzz that vitalized SEVEN and THE HIDDEN, two of the more obvious sources from which it draws considerable inspiration. Who could blame Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) for imagining that the death of vicious, unrepentant serial...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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For all its classy cast and glum polish, this metaphysical horror picture with big things on its mind lacks the malevolent buzz that vitalized SEVEN and THE HIDDEN, two of the more obvious sources from which it draws considerable inspiration. Who could

blame Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) for imagining that the death of vicious, unrepentant serial killer Reese (Elias Koteas) marks the end of his reign of terror? But mere days after Reese's execution, Hobbes finds himself at a crime scene that bears all the marks of Reese's sadistic

handiwork. And that body is followed by another, and yet another. A taunting remark made by Reese moments before his execution leads Hobbes to the discovery that 30 years earlier, a similar case culminated in the suicide of one Detective Molina, whose daughter (Embeth Davidtz), now a professor of

theology, hints at the involvement of dark and dangerous forces but refuses to explain herself further. Viewers realize far sooner than Hobbes (apparently a victim of his own unimaginative virtuousness) that men sometimes entertain fallen angels unaware, and that the unholy host -- who can pass

from body to body with no more than a touch -- wreak no end of trouble in human form. Director Gregory Hoblit consistently opts for an atmosphere of gloomy malaise rather than going for the cheap shocks: No hissing cats leaping out of shadows here. But coupled with the rather stolid presence of

Washington -- who's far better at radiating fundamental decency than the frayed-nerves terror of a man whose eyes have just been opened to the presence of undiluted evil -- Hoblit's reserve keeps the film from ever working up the kind of malicious head of steam that leaves audiences gasping for

more.

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