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(1998) (Denzel Washington, John Goodman) (R)

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Suspense/Thriller: A cop must stop a killer in the form of a demonic being that can pass from person to person through a simple touch.
Homicide detective John Hobbes (DENZEL WASHINGTON) has nabbed yet another suspect, and this time murderer Edgar Reese (ELIAS KOTEAS) is executed for his crime. Hobbes goes back to work with his partner, Jonesy (JOHN GOODMAN), but then finds that someone is killing again -- in Reese's trademark style. Their boss, Lt. Stanton (DONALD SUTHERLAND), thinks it might be an inside job -- a cop replicating the murders, but Hobbes and Jonesy begin finding clues that lead them to think otherwise.

One of them leads Hobbes to Gretta Milano (EMBETH DAVIDTZ), a theology professor who's father, also a police officer, committed suicide after being implicated in crimes he didn't commit. Seeing a similarity between her father and Hobbes, Gretta tells him to forget the case, particulary if he has anyone close to him, which in this case includes his brother Art (GABRIEL CASSEUS) and his son, Sam (MICHAEL J. PAGAN). As the murders continue, Hobbes discovers the true culprit -- a demonic spirit named Azazel that can pass from person to person by the simplest of touches.

Hobbes also finds that the killer has decided to implicate him in the murders, and due to its ever- changing appearance, he never knows what body the spirit might next inhabit. As the detective learns more about Azazel, he must figure out how to stop the being before his own career -- and life -- are put in jeopardy.

If they're fans of anyone in the cast or of supernatural-type thrillers, they just might.
For violence and language.
  • DENZEL WASHINGTON plays a homicide detective who, despite some cursing, is squeaky clean. After his past and now current experiences, he does begin to question religion and life in general as he battles the evil spirit.
  • JOHN GOODMAN plays Hobbes' partner who drinks, smokes, and curses a little, but is dedicated to his job.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    It's cold and flu season, and what better time to release a movie that showcases just how communicable diseases can be. Of course we're not talking about viruses or germs, but instead demonic possessions that are transferred just by coming into physical contact with someone else. That's just one of the brilliant touches of "Fallen," an effective mixing of the detective and supernatural genres that should please fans of those types of films, and may just become a crossover hit with mainstream audiences.

    Directed by Gregory Hoblit (Emmy award winner for some TV cop shows and director of 1996's surprise hit, "Primal Fear") and written by Academy Award nominee Nicholas Kazan ("Reversal of Fortune"), the film has all of the necessary spooky elements to give the film an overall creepy feeling. Shot in Philadelphia (by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel), Hoblit has given the film a near Gothic and very cold look -- all of which, of course, adds to the film's feel.

    While some viewers may find the initial proceedings (and perhaps the entire film) a bit too slow for their liking, that element only adds to the overall creepy atmosphere. The pace does pick up as the story progresses and fortunately Hoblit and Kazan have littered the movie with clues that allow us to play detective along with the lead actors. That device works by drawing us into the plot, and one can never tell where the story's going to go next. In addition, by allowing the "villain" to pass from one body to the next, they keep us in the dark and on the edge of our seats wondering who will next host the demon. Thus, we, like the lead character, never know where he or she will pop up next.

    Beyond the potential criticism about the movie's pacing, many will probably be put off by Hoblit's use of voice over narration from the main character. As I've said many times before in other reviews, it's an obtrusive element and is often used because it's the path of least resistance in telling a story (ie. It's the easiest way to impart information). Fortunately it's not used too often, but in the times that it does occur, it destroys the scene's mood. Often there's a nice, dialogue- free scene that's building momentum on its own and suddenly we're subjected to some silly introspective bits of free flowing consciousness from the main character.

    While that device allows us inside Hobbes' head, the film makers could easily have dropped it without harming the story. Now to be fair, there is a clever wrap around use of that voice over narration that ties the beginning and end together into a clever twist. Pulling that off without the narration would have been difficult, so I'll give them a little slack for that. Regarding that ending, it's a wild, highly imaginative and completely unexpected twist that makes you appreciate the film even more. Whereas most films nowadays have decent setups, they often fall apart near the end as we plod along toward the highly predictable conclusion. Not so with this film.

    What also makes the film standout and efficiently work is the cast, and that's especially true for the charismatic lead. I've always liked most of the various roles Denzel Washington has played throughout his career. As Hobbes, he once again lends an instant charm and credibility to his character. While some may complain that he's underplaying the role (occasionally being too calm considering what's happening), I think it's the proper take on how to play the character. While he won't earn any Oscar nods for this portrayal (like he has for several roles in the past), he does create a sympathetic person who, with assistance from the writer and director, allows us to join him on this increasingly horrendous journey.

    John Goodman (best known from TV's "Roseanne") perfectly fits the bill as the supportive partner, and he and Washington create characters who do feel like they've been partnered together for some time. Donald Sutherland gives yet another take of his now stereotypical, overbearing creepy guy, but is effective for what's asked of him and his persona actually pays off by the end of the film. Embeth Davidtz ("Schindler's List") is okay in her role, but it feels as if some of her footage must have been left on the editing room floor. Her character is vital to Hobbes' investigation and exploration, and there don't seem to be enough scenes involving her and her knowledge on the subject.

    Even so, the film is a highly effective thriller that has many "fun" moments. Along with the twist filled ending, there's a wild sequence where the demon chases Gretta down a crowded street. No ordinary chase, the demon uses the domino effect (one person touching another who touches another and so on) to quickly chase after her. Additionally, the whole element of Hobbes finding himself essentially reliving the exact story of a former police officer gives the film an interesting spin as he must figure out how to avoid ending up like that last guy.

    The film has enough suspense and detective elements to thrill moviegoers, and contains an aptly used Rolling Stones song, "Time Is On My Side." As you leave the theater humming or softly singing that song (be careful -- you don't want to spook the people nearby -- you'll understand after you see the film), you'll realize that this movie easily stands out from the rest of the usual beginning-of-the-year dreck that will also be taking up space in the multiplexes. We really liked this film and thus give "Fallen" an 8 out of 10.

    Obviously, the whole element regarding the supernatural/demonic material might be scary to younger kids (and some adults) and/or unsettling to those with strong religious convictions. Several people are killed (by gunshot or a poisonous injection), but the bloodshed is kept at a minimum. Profanity is extreme with 25 "f" words, and there are many scenes that are scary and/or suspenseful. Although few preteens, if any, will want to see this film, we suggest that you look through the content in case someone else in your home does want to see it.

  • Hobbes joins Jonesy and Lou (who have many empty beer bottles in front of them) in a bar and has a beer himself.
  • Hobbes has a beer at home.
  • Hobbes has a beer in a bar.
  • We see several dead people in bathtubs (in separate scenes) and in both cases their eyes are open.
  • Hobbes looks at an old photograph showing a suicide victim and there's some blood around his head on the floor.
  • We see a slightly bloody bullet hole in a man who's just been shot.
  • We see some blood near a body and a small bullet hole in another man's head.
  • Obviously the killer (a demonic spirit inhabiting many bodies) has both.
  • Some viewers may see Hobbes attitude toward religion and God (he's unsure of both due to the atrocities he's seen in the past and what he's currently experiencing) as having both.
  • Overall (and considering the movie's theme), there's a nearly constant foreboding atmosphere surrounding the movie, and some viewers may find the whole demonic aspect of the movie unsettling.
  • Whenever we see the killer's point of view, it's done in a strange camera angle bathed in a sepia tone usually accompanied by suspenseful/scary music.
  • Some viewers will find Reese's execution (including some brief writhing) in the gas chamber tense.
  • A man bursts through another man's door and attacks him with a syringe (seen in slow motion during a lightning storm) and finally kills him.
  • Hobbes goes through an old, deserted cabin. The long scene has a haunted house feel to it.
  • Hobbes is literally surrounded by the killer as the demon passes from person to person around him on a street.
  • The demon (in the form of a man) threatens Gretta and then chases her down the street in the guise of many people.
  • Hobbes and a stranger have a gun to gun standoff.
  • Hobbes goes on the run and must avoid the police.
  • The ending of the movie is one big suspense-filled sequence.
  • Poison-filled syringe: Used by the killer to kill his victims.
  • Handguns: Used to threaten and/or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Blow job," "Knucklehead," "Eat me," "Sh*thead," "Bitch" (toward a woman), and "Chickensh*t."
  • Jonesy playfully gives Hobbes "the finger."
  • In a quiet scene, an old building's ceiling partially falls down, startling Hobbes (and the audience).
  • Many scenes have a foreboding sound throughout, while others have outright suspenseful and/or scary music in them.
  • None.
  • At least 25 "f" words (1 using "mother"), 14 "s" words, 2 slang terms using male genitals (the "d" word and "c*cksucker"), 1 slang term for female genitals (the "p" word), 9 hells, 5 asses (3 using "hole"), 2 S.O.B.'s, 1 damn, and 3 uses of "G-damn," and 2 uses of "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • We see just a brief glimpse of part of a male prisoner's bare butt.
  • Reese, rambling on about people's future reactions to seeing the documentary about his execution, comments that some ladies will mention seeing a urine stain. He then comments that they'd then realize it wasn't from urine.
  • Reese tells a guard, "I'll give you a blow job if you get me out of this thing" (the gas chamber).
  • Jonesy smokes a few times, while Hobbes smokes once.
  • The killer (as different people) smokes (cigarettes and cigars) a few times.
  • A cop smokes a cigar.
  • A character must deal with the death of a sibling, as must a boy about his father (but beyond two brief scenes, not much attention is focused on this).
  • Evil/demonic spirits and whether they exist or not (and/or are responsible for murderers' actions).
  • The death penalty -- it's used at the beginning of the movie.
  • Reese is executed in the gas chamber.
  • Although not seen, a man has been murdered (via an injection of poison) and we later see his body.
  • A man bursts through another man's door and attacks him with a syringe (seen in slow motion during a lightning storm) and finally kills him.
  • A man punches his hand through a cab's window as he tries to get to Gretta.
  • A man gets a gun and shoots at Hobbes. They then have standoff that ends with a person being shot and killed.
  • Hobbes finds another person who's been killed via an injection of poison.
  • Hobbes punches a cop who's identified him.
  • A man shoots another man at point blank range and then shoots at a third person.
  • Several more people are killed.

  • Reviewed January 13, 1998

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