January 16, 1998 in Seven

It’s Denzel Vs. The Devil In ‘Fallen’

Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press
 

I don’t know if it’s the millennium or what, but the devil is hot.

In recent months, he’s been played by Al Pacino (“Devil’s Advocate”) and Billy Crystal (“Deconstructing Harry”). He shows up again in “Fallen,” in which a cop (Denzel Washington) watches a killer fry and then finds out he was a fallen angel who transmitted his evil, by touch, into an innocent bystander. That sets up a deadly game of tag for devil-worshippers, and Denzel has to figure out how to stop it.

It’s a neat, paranoid premise because it means evil could be anywhere - on the street, in your home and, if you bump into the wrong person, in you. Director Gregory Hoblit (“Primal Fear”) has found nifty ways to show evil passing from person to person, using light and music to give these moments a tingly, startling chill.

I wish the “Fallen” script had the same restraint. There is some laughable dialogue (“May I ask you something personal?”/”Everything is personal if you’re a person”). And my giggle reflex kicks in whenever anyone in a movie says, “Beware my wrath” with a straight face. But the worst is Washington’s intrusive narration, jammed with such portentous stuff as, “There are moments that divide your life, when you realize nothing will be the same.” We’re supposed to think this claptrap is profound, but what we really think is “Shut up, already.”

And speaking of Washington, he is becoming a liability. It’s not his acting, which is fine; it’s that he has the power to order rewrites that mess up scripts. That’s the only explanation for why every recent Washington movie has him playing: a, a saintly do-gooder who, b, has a love interest who’s not really a love interest and c, wears beautifully tailored suits, regardless of his income. Guess whose contract lets him keep the clothes?

To be fair, a development at the end of “Fallen” makes what has come before seem less ridiculous and more layered with meaning. But that won’t do you much good while you’re watching it the first time.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

“FALLEN”

Location: Newport, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls cinemas

Credits: Directed by Gregory Hoblit, starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman

Running time: 2:04

Rating: R

This sidebar appeared with the story: “FALLEN” Location: Newport, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls cinemas Credits: Directed by Gregory Hoblit, starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman Running time: 2:04 Rating: R


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