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Fallen (1998) Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland

Fallen is the kind of movie that those who absolutely do not believe in the supernatural, think, “Well maybe.”

Homicide detectives John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) and his partner, whom everyone calls Jonesy (John Goodman), become involved in a case appearing to be a series of copycat murders, but the similarities are too close to be copycat. Some details were only known by the police and the killer, who has been executed. Fallen opens with a dark flashback and a voice stating “I want to tell you about the time I almost died.” It sets the tone of the noirish Fallen.

Killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas) while being prepped to die by gas pellet, summons Hobbes just before he is taken to the gas chamber. When Hobbes approaches the cell, Koteas shows no fear or remorse, instead he cajoles, he laughs, he asks to shake Hobbes hand, he speaks to Hobbes in another language and finally he gives him a riddle to solve.

As Reese is escorted to the gas chamber he skips, prances and sings; once locked in the chair he stares and grimaces at the witnesses, and at Hobbes who is among them. Then he loudly sings the old Mick Jagger tune “Time is on my Side” to and with his last breath. For me, it is this scene that sets the tone of evil in this movie. Reese’s execution puts Hobbes on a path that makes him suspicious of those he works with. Especially Lieutenant Stanton (Donald Sutherland) who seems to have knowledge that he is not willing to share.

John Hobbes is not a cop on a mission; he is a bachelor living with his brother and his brother’s young son in a cramped apartment. However, he is quickly drawn into the murkiness of the spirit world of demons and human hosts.

The detective is further drawn into the web when the latest body found is that of a man he had seen the night before. Each step he takes in the investigation draws him deeper into the unknown. He tries to find the link by reviewing the video of Reese’s execution, a linguist has determined that Reese was speaking an ancient language before he died. The links become threads that lead to the dead cops’ daughter Gretta (Embeth Davidtz). Is she the key? When Hobbes questions her, she advises him to walk away from the case. He does not and finds himself in the fight of his life against evil.

There is no trickery here, no monsters; just the remarkable use of the camera and the idea that has been put into the audience’s head that evil lives among us. It could be anyone, man woman or a child. The plot is effective because it is so simple--it’s not the bogeyman that will get you, evil lives closer to home.

Denzel Washington does not usually appear in supernatural police dramas such as Fallen but this mystery, thriller supernatural film is a good match because the characters he most often portrays are always so grounded. An unusual change for Washington, he makes the perfect non-believer.

Rated R

See Fallen The tagline is Don't trust a soul.

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