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Denzel Washington in Fallen (1998)

Having been the detective who brought in serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas), Philadelphia based John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) shows up to watch justice be served at his execution, meeting Reese in his cell before hand where the killer was acting strange and mumbling things. Having watched Reese die in the gas chamber Hobbes is suspicious when he is called to a murder scene which seems similar to Reese's modus operandi. As Hobbes digs deeper he finds the case connected to another cop 30 years earlier who killed himself and what seems like a case of demonic possession which now has him in its sights.

I am no expert, I have never gone to film school but for me director Gregory Hoblit makes one seriously big mistake early on and that is to make something too obvious. In fact it is a combination of scenes starting with the execution of Edgar Reese, a fantastic scene thanks to Elias Koteas' perfectly over the top performance but a wrong scene as it ends with an out of body experience which is so unsubtle it already puts you on alert. And then we have what should be an innocuous scene where what ever demon it is which possessed Reese is transferred from one person to another as they touch and we hear a swoosh. Maybe Hoblit felt a need to make things unsubtle to make audiences know what is going on but for me it robs "Fallen" of a big chunk of mystery.

Elias Koteas in Fallen (1998)

Now in fairness there is a lot more mystery to "Fallen" than what is first presented and we have the intrigue of watching Hobbes connect the dots as he unearths what he is surprised to discover is a case of demonic possession and is horrified when he realises how easy it is to pass it on as he becomes the target. But with so much told to us early on some of the movies mystery is lost.

What the knock on effect of this is that "Fallen" starts to rely heavily on the cast to keep you entertained and in truth they all delver an enjoyable performance especially Elias Koteas who almost comes across like a psychotic Robert De Niro in the jail scenes. But then you have Denzel Washington and whilst his performance entertains everything about it is familiar from the charm, the reassuring nod of the head, the way his teeth show like a chipmunk as he smiles with his head leaning to one side. It is why when "Fallen" is over you know that Denzel Washington was in the movie but you can't remember his character's name.

What this all boils down to is that "Fallen" is an entertaining 90s thriller with Denzel Washington delivering a typical Denzel Washington performance. But for me a lack of subtlety when it comes to explaining what is going on robs the movie of some of its mystery.

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