dir: Shane Abbess
It’s one thing to admire the scrappy, underdog determination it takes for someone with no track record as a filmmaker to pull together the financing for a flick and then film it, their way, making up for the paucity of their resources with innovation, creative thinking and inspired finagling and wangling.
That’s admirable. But it’s another thing entirely to actually enjoy the end product of such a scenario.
So I admire the best efforts of the people involved with this, but that didn’t make it any less painful to sit through.
Gabriel is an excruciatingly bad fantasy film within the subgenre of fantasy which has angels and demons as protagonists. There was a trilogy of low budget movies a while ago called The Prophecy with ascending numerals, no less, and they essentially told the same story.
One of the big differences is that those flicks had Christopher Walken in all three of them. Sure, they were crap films, but you can never underestimate the appeal of that lunatic in any film.
He played, coincidentally enough, the archangel Gabriel, angry (at least in the first two flicks) that his pre-eminent place in the celestial order has been usurped by God’s love of humanity, thus he endeavoured to bring the monkeys, as he called them, low.
The angels of heaven and the fallen of hell fight out their eternal war in the human realm, searching for souls that will aid them in getting the upper hand in their struggle for supremacy.
Gabriel has exactly the same premise, but melds it with every limitation having no budget and a leaden, turgid script will bring you. It also falters in attempting to recall as much of The Crow, Equilibrium, The Matrix and the Underworld films as it can muster for 1/100th of the budget.
The first six minutes of this flick comprise titles that tell us the story as it stands (‘arcs’ sent by The Light to battle the Fallen in some nameless Dark city), and presumably why we should care. The arc, in this case Our Hero Gabriel (Andy Whitfield) , takes on human form but retains a small amount of angel power, and spends five of those six minutes I mentioned intercut with opening credits, grunting, screaming, rolling in the mud and otherwise wondering why he’s replicating the resurrection sequence from The Crow mixed with The Terminator time travel scenes. And how he came to be wearing this ‘cool’ Crow-like, Matrix-y outfit.
Then, For Some Reason, Gabriel travels to an apartment and reads a message from an arc who came to the city earlier, and who obviously failed in his mission to kill all the Fallen in this city. He picks up two of the fakest looking plastic guns with silencers, and goes on his merry way, presuming that the plot devices and other characters will come to him, and not the other way around.
He has a knife fight with someone we know nothing about, except that he’s a skinhead in his spare time, and kills him. Then he appears at a caravan in the middle of nowhere, allegedly the outskirts of town, except it looked more like a drive-in.
He argues with some chap called Uriel who apparently was an angel as well, but is now an alcoholic. For Some Reason. The reason, given time and again, is that being amongst the humans in human form, sharing in their miseries, makes the angels forget their mission and despair.
Gabriel struts through the rest of the film coincidentally bumping into people who used to be angels, including Amitiel (Samantha Noble) whose wings were clipped and who now whores for scag money. In another scene lifted verbatim from The Crow, Gabriel cures her of her addiction. There are plenty more former and currently boring angels, and there’s Gabriel, with the speed and amusement level of a glacier, crawling through the rest of the film and plot in order to meet them all before the Final Confrontation with The Enemy.
It feels like an agonising slog to the end. I really enjoyed next to nothing throughout this long, long flick. The action scenes try to compensate for not having the budget to do them properly, or for not having people who know how to choreograph and stage action scenes properly, with novel methods that sadly don’t hide just how bare the creative cupboard was. It’s akin to watching an amateur magician where you can clearly see scarves, coins, cards and rabbits falling out of their sleeves and pockets.
The acting is uniformly ordinary. It’s not terrible in the sense that the actors themselves are terrible; it’s fairly obvious that the director has no idea how to direct actors. It reminded me of flicks like Curse of the Komodo, or Komodo Versus Cobra, which are flicks made by softcore porno directors and softcore porno actors but without sex scenes, just static camera shots and mindless action sequences and people acting like extras in Godzilla movies without Godzilla bothering to show up.
In fact, my other measly, meagre complaint is that there isn’t enough mindless action in this flick. It needed more mindless, poorly directed action to take up the place of the terrible, turgid dialogue and scene after scene that made no sense at all.
When you watch it all the way to the end, hoping for some ray of light to make it all better or at least to give you some inkling that not all of your time was fritted away, bringing you 109 minutes closer to death with nothing to show for it, you’re going to be even more disappointed than you thought possible. The ending manages to make even less sense than the beginning, if that’s even possible.
At various points throughout this Long March of a movie, you’ll be asking yourself, “so, there’s good angels and fallen angels, and they go to this place Purgatory, which looks like a few blocks of a shitty town, which is filled with brothels, people with guns and nightclubs, populated predominately by, um, what? People’s souls? And they go to soup kitchens and use guns and eat food and have pseudo-goth clubs and caravans and underground pipes?” What the fuck is this shit?
Originally I had intended to give this flick 5 out of 10, as in 5 reasons to pray for Judgment Day to come early out of 10 so that you don’t have to watch a flick like this ever again. My reasoning was that all films with angels and demons fighting it out on Earth or some simulacra of Earth are crap or have been crap so far, so according to the dictates of the genre, the film is about average.
But the more I think about what a mess it was, and how many bad choices on big and small issues the director and others made, down to stuff like stupid contact lenses, unintentionally humorous hairstyles, terrible line readings and a script that should have had a stake rammed through its heart or its wings clipped or whatever metaphor you think is appropriate before it got to the production stage. I realise that my honest desire to be nice and cut them some slack isn’t warranted or justifiable, much as I might wish it to be.
And the fact that it’s an Australian flick, perpetuated with bad accents that flick between Aussie and bad approximations of American accents, doesn’t prompt me to cut it any slack either. In fact, it makes me want to mock it even more.
I’m sorry, but Gabriel fucking sucks.
1 reason to throw the plugged-in toaster into the bath like you’ve been planning since Christmas out of 10.
“I hate this place... I hate myself... and before I arrived, I didn't even know what that feeling was.” – the feeling means you just watched a movie called Gabriel.