Daring and unique on the one hand, but hard to swallow on the other, "Prophecy" is a fantasy thriller about murderous angels waging a war on Earth. First-time director Gregory Widen deserves a pat on the back for attempting risky balancing act. Unique idea and good production values will attract a fair audience.

Daring and unique on the one hand, but hard to swallow on the other, “Prophecy” (shown under its original title, “God’s Army ,” at Berlin’s Fantasy fest), is a fantasy thriller about murderous angels waging a war on Earth. First-time director Gregory Widen deserves a pat on the back for attempting the risky balancing act, but the result is not as spectacular as its potential. Though the unique idea and good production values will attract a fair audience, pic lacks the final ounce of credibility and flair to become a hit.

Dimension will release pic domestically in September. Premise is that some angels, led by Gabriel (Christopher Walken), are jealous of God’s love for humankind and hope to kill off the Earthlings. To do that, they have to first triumph over the good angels who are putting up resistance. They need a general who is better versed in warfare than they are, so they pick a human veteran of the Korean War who has just died.

Trying to keep the soul of this colonel from the bad angels, the good angels eventually hide it in the body of a young Indian girl, whom Gabriel then tries to locate.

Plot is basically a spy thriller with angels instead of agents. Police detective Thomas Dagget (Elias Koteas), a former priest and author of a book about angels, leads the investigation. Though Dagget’s probe and the puzzle of what is going on hold the attention, Dagget ends up a little shortchanged by the script, as the plot slowly switches from Dagget’s to Gabriel’s point of view.

It’s hard to resist a film that puts angels — fallen as well as good — in a spy thriller, but the idea is so unusual it becomes something of a liability.

Dagget’s associates and superiors accept his talk about God and angels far too easily, and for a thriller audience all the theological gab will be simply too mystical.

In addition, budget constraints prevent the pic from fulfilling its considerable potential for spectacular special effects.

Walken walks a fine line between absurdity and incredible power, looking both dangerous and emaciated, with his pale face set off by uneven black hair. Eric Stoltz plays the angel Simon in an unsentimental yet personable way (he’s good with kids too!). Adam Goldberg is memorable as the snide cop who acts as Dagget’s bouncing board, though he disappears from the movie too early.

Koteas gives an excellent, subtle perf as the closed-mouthed, jaded yet believing Dagget. Thesp is both strong and memorable despite a part that becomes increasingly functional.

Production standards are all fine, including good though sometimes cramped photography and an inspired score by David C. Williams.

Prophecy

Production

A Dimension Films release of an Overseas Film and First Look Pictures presentation of a Neo Motion Pictures production. Produced by Joel Soisson. Executive producers, W.K. Border, Don Phillips. Co-producer, Michael Leahy. Directed, written by Gregory Widen.

Crew

Camera (color), Bruce D. Johnson, Richard Clabaugh; editor, Sonny Baskin; music, David C. Williams; production design, Clark Hunter; costume design, Dana Allyson; makeup, Martha Cecilia; sound (Ultra-Stereo), Al Rizzo; special effects , Jor van Kline; casting, Don Phillips. Reviewed at Fantasy Film Festival, Berlin, Aug. 5, 1995. Running time: 96 min.

With

Angel Gabriel ... Christopher Walken Thomas Dagget ... Elias Koteas Angel Simon ... Eric Stoltz Katherine ... Virginia Madsen Mary ...Moriah Snyder Jerry ... Adam Goldberg Rachael ... Amanda Plummer Lucifer ... Viggo Mortensen
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