What if fallen angels were real and they spent their time fucking people waiting for Armageddon to happen? That’s probably the worst way to describe 1998’s Fallen, a suspenseful supernatural thriller that couldn’t quite take off in theaters, but became something of an underground cult classic – over time.
In Philadelphia, notorious serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas) meets his supposed end in the gas chamber, and the man who caught him, Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington), is there to witness it. After a weird interaction, gibberish, and a few veiled threats, audiences get their first hint of what’s really going on in Fallen, as something slips away from the dying man. There’s little time to celebrate, because just when the hero cops thought they’d put another one on the board for the good guys, a new round of murders with the same patterns occur. It’s not long before the bodies are piling up again, the mystery begins to unfold, and the detective realizes he’s being stalked by someone who can possess almost anyone he touches.
It’s easy to get caught up in this plot once the pieces fall into place and keep thinking about it long after the movie is over. I found myself wanting to know more about this world, the people who know about demons and hunt them down, and why some people resist the touch but not the “breath”. Some think it’s because Hobbes was too pure, which is partly borne out by the fact that he wouldn’t take a bribe early in the movie, but he doesn’t seem much more moral or just than the average person. . This gives Azazel extra personality as the movie villain he so furiously targets Hobbes simply because he couldn’t possess the hero like the others. It’s good to see that even former immortal angelic beings can be little assholes. A long-term goal is set, the fall of Babylon and an ensuing apocalypse, but that’s the big picture as this movie focuses on that little beef between an immortal and a stubborn man he wants to systematically destroy. . There could easily have been a sequel or a spin-off, since there’s a lot of material present, even if it’s not with any of these characters.
The acting is a huge attractor in Fallen. Washington does a solid job and while it’s not his best role, most will have no trouble liking Hobbes and feeling his plight. The scenes with her brother, Art, who appears to have a mental disability in the film, are almost touching at times. Fallen also features John Goodman, who’s great as always, especially when he gets to do more towards the end, James Gandolfini plays the co-worker jerk, but shows some undeniably funny quirks, with Embeth Davidtz and Donald Sutherland helping around a cast stellar. A lot of these people manage to show some range, although it’s the quiet, subtle moments that beg to be noticed, and hey, most of them manage to sing at some point.
Hopefully no one lets their distaste for the Rolling Stones drive them away from Fallen, because this is a movie that changes the way some people view the song Time is on my Side. The scene where everyone sings it to Hobbes in the police station is definitely a bit creepy, and it’s hard to ignore Elias Koteas’ passion as he sings the tune. And how could they make a movie about a malevolent demon who taunts his prey without including Sympathy for the Devil? Otherwise, it would have been a missed opportunity. There’s some Beck in there for anyone who needs a bit more fun.
Fallen’s genre, tone, and themes are almost all layered and blended. In some ways, the movie tries to do too much, but even with all of these different elements present, it never lingers too long or too far into something that might have bogged it down further. Dealing with demons, it would have been easy to add more horror elements, but the suspense and tension of not knowing, of being overwhelmed, and the fear of what someone with that kind of power can do are far more impressive. How can he trust anyone?
At the start, there’s a scene that could be considered very “pro-cop” with the way Hobbes introduces his fellow officers, saying that even corrupt cops do more good than the average person every day, and the film shows how he was talking about his solidarity when they all started to suspect him, thinking it must be another cop doing this new round of killings, and all of them inherently becoming his enemies, possessed or not. Not all the “good cops” here make it.
It’s established early on just how vulnerable everyone in Hobbes’ life is, and the sense of hopelessness grips the audience – it sticks. The mysteries and historical angles are engaging and intersect with the religious aspect, but there’s no need to dive too much into it all, ultimately, it’s still between Azazel and Hobbes. Fallen is a biblical thriller, almost like The Prophecy (1995) or Stigmata (1999), but it stays more grounded in comparison and narrows the scope. Director Gregory Hoblit knew when to pull out the music and humor and which scenes needed a moment to sink in.
It’s hard to talk about this one without discussing the ending, but Fallen is celebrating its 25th anniversary, so spoilers. The movie has what some might call a depressing ending, but that’s only because the villain wins. The opening narration tells the audience what happened, but without prior information, this conclusion hits much harder. Honestly it felt like Azazel should have been victorious he’s a fallen angel, older, smarter, and Hobbes didn’t have all the information so he was doomed from the start no matter how much we wanted him to succeed.
So close though…
However, some people really don’t like this ending, either because it’s a huge downside or because they don’t think the three or four clues about what’s to come justify the twist. While researching this and looking at other reviews, I noticed that some didn’t even catch one of the clues, so maybe there’s something to that. The film received many mixed reviews, with critics feeling that it had a lot of heart and potential, but that it should have stuck to one genre, but to me that’s what makes it unique and stands out in some otherwise easy-to-ignore selections. .
Not enough people saw Fallen, although it was definitely worth it. Reviews were most likely a factor, but it was also caught in the wake of Titanic’s historic run in theaters, which hurt, even though it had been several weeks. The film can be a little slow in places, but I suggest the 120 minutes invested are worth it.
I was also glad the movie didn’t try to force a romance between Hobbes and Gretta Milano, but apparently that was added to the novelization of the movie. This book doesn’t vary too much from what I’ve seen, but it expands on some story details, at least slightly, and may be worth it for hardcore fans.
Visually, Fallen holds up well. This is partly because the nature of the demon’s powers didn’t require a lot of special effects. Most of what’s done is with camera tricks or filters, and some scream 90s, but the style has its own charm. You almost want to pat it on the head for not going into a music video, but there are some really great shots and the audience view follows the action well.
The film still has some legs these days, as it received a bit of a tribute in an episode of Marvel’s Loki series on Disney+. It could also have been a very different movie, as apparently Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally approached for the lead role, but perhaps he preferred the End of Days (1999) script more.
Fallen is an underrated movie, but it won’t make it for everyone. The movie isn’t quite the classic Seven (1995), a feature it most likely drew inspiration from, but the added layer of supernatural paint helps this project stand on its own. Some fans compare it to The Hidden (1987) or a movie called The First Power (1990), which shares a similar plot, but between the acting and the solid direction, I’d still recommend that Fallen is definitely worth watching. to be sought. I think this movie will stay good, after all it has time on its side.