Title: The ProphecyDirector: Gregory Widen
Starring: Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stoltz, Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer, Moriah “Shining Dove” Snyder, Adam Goldberg
Plot: The angel Gabriel has come to Earth to collect a soul, which could end the stalemated war in Heaven. In a bid to stop him, another angel Simon (Stoltz) has hidden the soul in a little girl called Mary (Snyder), while ex-priest turned cop Thomas (Koteas) is now tasked with protecting her.
Now I should start by highlighting that I’m no theology scholar as will no doubt only be highlighted further throughout this review, with the closest knowledge I have on the subject being derived from those two sessions of Sunday school I attended and general religious pop facts, which could be another reason for my dislike of this film, seeing how most of the people who seem to like this film on IMDB all seem to know a lot more about religion than me, which lets face it isn't hard. Then again it could equally be because I like things like logical plotting and likable characters, both of which are seemingly not present here, as most of the time I could not make head or tail of what the hell was supposed to be happening in this film.
Starting off positively enough with the prospect of trench coat clad angels on earth and even more so when we see Simon kicking Gabriel’s right hand Angel out of a window, which is badass enough until it is then topped by the same angel Uzziel getting hit by a seemingly runaway car and pinned against a wall! Sadly this is essentially the high point of the film, meaning that the remaining 90 mins really feels a whole lot longer than it should.
Needless to say I don’t think that I would have made it through this one had it not been for Walken who here is on great form even the material stinks and perhaps because of this he seems to be trying to make the most of his role, as every scene he has in this film either has him chewing the scenery or making even the smallest lines of dialogue as darkly funny as possible. This of course while rocking one of his more iconic looks with his pancake makeup and slicked back jet black hair, which only adds to his villainy which seems to literaly ooze from him. Still with everything that is wrong with the film, it easy to see what attracted Walken to playing the character of Gabriel, a role it would seem he enjoyed so much that he reprised it for the next two sequels, but it is the sheer drive of this character which makes him so intresting, as not once does he ever seem to be deterred from claiming the soul, which has been stored in Mary’s body as no matter how much he is shot, beaten up or even blown up in exploding trailers, he continually refuses to give up. This however is not to say that he doesn’t get distracted along the way, as we get random scenes of his hanging out with a group of kids at Mary’s school while he randomly makes them take turns blowing a trumpet for no real reason. Equally baffling is his constant need to have a sidekick, first of all with Jerry (Goldberg) his kind of helper zombie, thanks to Gabriel keeping him in a state of limbo since they met at an earlier point when Jerry had tried to kill himself, forcing to walk the earth in a state of semi rot. However when Jerry bites the dust, Gabriel is almost immediately on the lookout for a replacement sidekick, yet this constant need for support is never explained, especially when he is so seemingly capable of handling things on his own.
Still such illogical plotting is one of the main issues of this film, especially when it the film turns into a boring road trip movie for if there is one guaranteed way to loose my intrest, it is to fill you film with shots of people driving in the desert for no purpose, which is what we get with Thomas trying to get Mary to a Native American reservation so that they can free the soul trapped in Mary’s body, which I thought was kind of strange, seeing how they make such a big deal about Thomas suffering visions of angels at war while being ordained as a priest, aswell as suffering other similar visions and shown frequently quoting scripture in his droning voice over. So with such an emphasis on Catholicism why go to an Indian reservation and not a church? Does the Catholic Church only handle exorcisms and not your run of the mill rouge soul extraction? Equally comical is the soul that is trapped in Mary’s body, which it would seem director Widen was not content with just noting as belonging to a bad man, but instead goes the whole hog by making it the soul of a Colonel responsible for numerous war crimes including most bizarrely cannibalism, while attempting to back up the supposed evil of this character with grainy footage of the Colonel standing next to a number of impaled victims with a sheepish expression on his face.
My other main gripe here is the sheer amount of unlikable characters, which really says a lot when the villain is the only real likable one here, which is more down to the awesomeness of Walken than anything to do with the writing, while outside of Eric Stoltz’s Simon the only other memorable character is the almost cameo appearance of Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer, who is almost unrecognisable here as it is a role completely unlike anything else I have seen him play, as his sneering appearance fuelled with such manic energy that his brief 15 minutes in the film, lasts with you even when the film has ended while being one of the more fondly remembered moments of the film, which lets face it there are not many of here.
It is strange to think that Widen, earlier in his career would also be responsible for writing two of my favourite films with both “Backdraft” and “Highlander”, especially when the writing and general plotting so sloppy here, so much that an epic idea of the battle between Heaven and Hell ends up coming off looking like a minor squabble especially when his angel characters, supposedly capable of raining down fire and brimstone, frequently seem impotent with their powers, which when used seem more like base level telepathy than the low levels of any kind of great power. Sadly this is a film which promises many things, but fails to deliver on anything more than a low level theology musings, yet at the same time I’m left wondering how much worse the sequels could be, as after seeing this one it is hard to see how much worse they can get.