Angels don’t have wings, and humanity is a pitiful species requiring redemption in Oz gothic sci-fi fantasy “Gabriel.” Made on a wing and a prayer by debuting helmer Shane Abbess, this derivative, low-budget HD effort will be hellish for anyone outside its targeted youth audience. Substantial promo by Sony has helped muddled pic score high-flying returns locally in its first two frames, and similar campaigns could duplicate these results in other territories. Ancillary prospects also look bright, with film’s computer-game look suggesting an easy and profitable spinoff.
Arc Angel Gabriel (Andy Whitfield) — known simply as “Ark” — is sent by “the Light” to a film noirish purgatory, where he must do battle with bug-eyed Dark Angel leader Sammael (Dwaine Stevenson) and save humanity from itself.
En route to the inevitable good-vs.-evil confrontation, Gabriel encounters several fellow Arks who have already failed to redeem the desolate urban wasteland. Most in need of help is comely fallen angel Jade (Samantha Noble), whose flirtations with heroin and prostitution have left her the worse for wear but haven’t damaged her fetishistic dress sense.
Loins stirred, Gabriel tries to help Jade come back to “the Light” — despite biblical posturing, pic has a coy aversion to the word “God” — but all Gabriel’s good deeds threaten to drain him of the heavenly power he requires to vanquish Sammael.
Sluggish yarn progresses like a computer game running low on battery power, and lurches from setpiece to setpiece without achieving any narrative momentum. Some visual ideas — such as a shootout illuminated only by strobed gun blasts — are impressive, but most of the CGI has a secondhand look. Echoes of “The Matrix,” “The Crow” and “Blade Runner” abound.
Performances are labored, presumably in an attempt to reflect the characters’ self-pitying ennui. Whitfield’s handsome hero comes across as merely a naive and pretentious bore, while Stevenson, as the evil Sammael, is virtually unrecognizable, his face digitally adorned with Barney Google eyeballs. As with the other actors, Noble’s mannequin-like perf is not helped by the script’s tendency to favor platitudes and speeches over real dialogue.
Lensing is deliberately dark — both to create mood and to hide the low budget — but auds content with the unpolished, partially rendered look of computer games will be satisfied. Other tech credits are both ambitious and admirable.