Friday, June 29, 2012

REVIEW: Fallen (1998)

There’s always a charm to movies like this. Fallen is a 1990s thriller movie starring Denzel Washington and John Goodman; isn’t that a kick-ass cast?

Director: Gregory Holblitt
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Goodman

This is easily one of the better Denzel Washington movies, in which he plays a cocky detective who ends up on the trail of a body-jumping demon called Azazel. This is just one of those great bare-bones detective thrillers with a premise that is original enough to stand out without trying too hard to be anything it isn’t. All the tropes you would expect are in this movie – you have the stoic and serious main character slipping to the dark side. You have the hesitant and mysterious female lead who slowly opens up to the main character. You have a little kid character, in this case Washington’s nephew. You have a stern boss and a concerned sidekick character – the latter is Goodman’s role here.

The difference with Fallen is the quality with which it is executed and the great atmosphere it exudes. The pacing is really good and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. There are no real unexpected twists, and yet the story is told in such a way that you want to see what happens next anyway – that is an impressive feat. The events that transpire are carried out with a real seriousness and weight that make them compelling. It’s surprising how credible they make a body-jumping Biblical demon seem, too, and it never comes off as corny or anything. The scenes where you can’t quite tell who Azazel has possessed are the best ones in the film. Creepy and atmospheric, keeping you guessing.

Speaking of atmosphere, a word I have bandied about quite a lot already, this film is flooded with it – I especially like the use of the Rolling Stones song as a constant motif throughout. I don’t really know how Azazel knows a Rolling Stones song. But it works as a suitably eerie repeating theme throughout the film. And hearing John Goodman sing it at the end…that’s just great, man. A lot of the movie is set in crowded, urbanized city streets in the wintertime, which is good because the wintry setting bespeaks a cold, frigid feel, and the crowded and urban setting makes Azazel’s people-jumping skills all the more confusing and disorienting. It’s like he has a whole flock of unsuspecting, helpless chickens to feed on.

So Fallen is a kick ass thriller. It’s well written, well acted and professionally executed, with flair and style. There’s nothing about this movie that really speaks out as something transcendent of its genre, but sometimes all you need is a good, solid B-grade movie in the genre. Fallen adheres perfectly well to all the clichés of the detective thriller genre, and does them all beautifully.

That pic does not belong to me. All copyright to its original owners.