Film angels lose their religion

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ever since "Gabriel Over the

White House" debuted

in 1933, Hollywood has relied on religion to provide rousing entertainment. From "It's a Wonderful Life" to "The Exorcist" to recent fare like "The Seventh Sign," "Jacob's Ladder" and "The Rapture," movies have relished in tales of spiritual forces and the afterlife. The most recent addition is "The Prophecy," a movie that claims to be based on biblical events, but then conveniently bases its material on a "lost" chapter of the book of Revelations.

The film stars Christopher Walken as the angel Gabriel who has suddenly become jealous of God and instigates a war in heaven against the other angels. In order to win the debacle, Gabriel assumes human form and comes down to earth searching for the evil soul of a military mastermind who is being hidden by Simon, an oppositional angel who is also roaming the planet. A police officer who was once interested in the priesthood, Thomas Dagger, accidentally stumbles upon the conflict and immediately identifies the celestial beings using ancient Catholic cryptography and begins hunting them down with his .45 magnum. Thus, a heavenly war is fought on earth, and lots of supernatural personalities begin slugging it out amidst human frailty and confusion.

But the film only incorporates its different elements simply to entertain its audience and its different parts end up cancelling each other out. On one hand, it places its foot in traditional theology, but it continually usurps its premise in lieu of its own cinematic agendas. In order to tell the story it wants, the film writes its own scriptural passages and depicts its spiritual denizens as Gothic manifestations of brutality.

For all its spiritual mysticism, the angels presented here are basically run-of-the-mill vampire types. They live in dark mine shafts and walk around pale-faced dressed in black cloaks while savagely attacking their foes and performing mystical death rites. But even in this fantastical setup, the movie flounders in shoot-outs, an obligatory love interest, victorious human actions in the face of heavenly wrath and a climax that inexplicably pays tribute to a completely different religion.

The film is written and directed by Gregory Widen, the screenwriter of "Highlander," another movie depicting the violent antics of a group of immortals on earth. "The Prophecy"contains the same philosophical banter and dark sense of humor and with Christopher Walken in the leading role, it's sometimes watchable. Walken's ethereal presence and piercing stares counteract the silliness of various scenes, like one in which Gabriel sits outside a school playing with children, letting them blow through his trumpet exploding windows. Walken combines intensity with a carefree sense of the absurd that allows him to run circles around the other performers in the movie.

But Walken can't save the film and it eventually falls prey to its own divergent enthusiasms. Sure, heavenly spectacle, vampires, possessions, gunfights, brawls, and sexy actors are all fun to watch, but not all in the same logically confused movie.

"The Prophecy" is showing at Century Park 16, 620-0750.

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