When Hard Rain has Fallen, you might as well stay at home.
Thursday, January 22, 1998
Take a bit of violence, add a few supernatural happenings, some devils and a nasty demon and you should have an interesting story to tell, right? After all, it worked in the Book of Revelations, why shouldn''t it work in a movie?
For whatever reason, in the new thriller, Fallen, starring Denzel Washington, these elements do not a masterpiece make; in fact, they only produce two hours of vague, derivative storyline that fails to send even one chill down the spine.
Washington is John Hobbes, a decorated homicide detective who, as the film opens, is bidding farewell to a psychotic killer on his way to the gas chamber. Unknown to Hobbes, the killer is possessed by a demon named Azazel who, as the film progresses, comes to haunt and taunt Hobbes.
After the execution, murders committed in the exact same style as those committed by the demonic killer occur, and Hobbes'' world becomes more and more surreal as he gets closer to Azazel, a demon who can jump from person to person through a simple touch. Finally, it''s man against demon, with the smart money apparently on our hero, Hobbes.
Fallen follows in the footsteps of such supernatural thrillers as The Exorcist, and The Omen, movies which drew upon biblical mythology and ancient superstition to create horror. In today''s world where murder and mayhem can be found in everyday song, story and image, such traditional supernatural tales of good and evil somehow retain their potency. It is no accident that the Bible, perhaps the most violent collection of tales ever assembled, remains the number one best-seller.
When attempting to inspire this type of seemingly visceral fear, the challenge for the filmmaker is to play on the fears we all learned from the Bible as children, and sometimes it works. Consider The Exorcist, which was considered terrifying in its day. More recently, Seven, which played upon the seven deadly sins, also creeped movie audiences out in a big way.
Fallen, however, misses this mark. The key plot elements, such as ancient explanatory texts and demonic speeches are haphazard and only tenuously connected. Screenwriter Nicholas Kazan fails to build suspense, instead relying on a weak cinematic coloring technique to indicate the presence of the demon. Overall, everything seems too low-key to inspire fright.
Though the actors do the best they can with the material, in the end Fallen is anything but divinely inspired. Despite what more conservative members of our society may think, getting back to the Bible is not always a good thing.
The disaster/thriller Hard Rain, which stars lots of water as the big gimmick, is reminiscent of that old disaster classic, The Poseidon Adventure (with moon-faced fat boy Christian Slater in the Shelley Winters role). There''s lots of fire and flood and melodrama, but in the end, the whole thing is all wet.
The story is quite simple: During a flood in a small Indiana town, some thugs attempt to rob an armored car, only to be foiled by the driver (Slater). The good guys and the bad guys then chase each other around the sodden town as the water rises.
I had the good fortune to be sitting near a loud-mouthed jar head who viewed the entire film through a military paradigm. Normally, I feel no torture is too extreme, no death too final for people who talk during movies, but in this case, the film was so bad that listening to G.I. Joe free associate was actually more entertaining that what was happening on screen.
"They should secure the area, and shoot anything that moves," Joe announced, as the water rose throughout the movie-set town. Later, as a nagging farm wife played by Betty White badgers her long-suffering husband, Joe loudly proclaimed: "Some napalm would shut her up!"
Perhaps some napalm would have helped Hard Rain, and for starters they should have dropped it on the screenwriter, Graham Yost, who obviously had water on the brain when he wrote this script. There is no character development and there is very little plot. What little dialogue exists is grunted rather than spoken. The only distinguishing feature is that the entire film takes place in the water, with everyone chasing each other in boats and on Jet Skis.
The performances vary from cartoonish (Randy Quaid as the corrupt sheriff) to overly earnest (Slater), to just plain wrong (Morgan Freeman). In Freeman''s case, this actor spent his entire career playing kind, avuncular types. Everybody likes Morgan Freeman; everybody wants to be his friend. This persona makes it difficult to accept him as the villain, particularly when he is playing the role in his usual kind, avuncular way. Early on, you want to say, "Oh, go ahead and let him take the cash. He''s such a nice guy!"
In summary, this movie is so weak that the flowery language of film criticism is a waste of time. As the final credits rolled, G.I. Joe said it all: "I want my damn money back!"