dvd review: GABRIEL

Gabriel, the feature film directing debut of Shane Abbess, is one of those films that can be hard to process at first. The trailer certainly makes it look like a dark, brooding, fast-paced action film, which is partially accurate. The film is certainly dark and brooding, but it’s not quite as fast-paced as one might hope; or more specifically, when it slows down, it really seems to slow down. The film, however, offers an interesting concept that is well-executed and entertaining more often than not.

Andy Whitfield stars as Gabriel, the last of seven archangels of Heaven, sent to Purgatory to battle the Fallen for the souls trapped between Heaven and Hell. Purgatory is a dark, rain-soaked urban nightmare, where vice and corruption runs rampant, and Sammael (Dwaine Stevenson), the mightiest of the Fallen, rules with absolute power. Other archangels have come to Purgatory to try and restore the balance between light and darkness, but once they assume human form, they soon succumb to human frailties. When Gabriel arrives, he soon discovers that his comrades in arms have all fallen from grace, either killed off by the Fallen, or consumed by the vice and negative forces of Purgatory. Fellow archangel Uriel (Harry Palvidis), hiding out in a camper on the outskirts of the city, warns Gabriel that the forces of darkness are too much to contend with, and that the battle is already lost. But Gabriel refuses to accept that reality, and he sets out to redeem the other archangels, and do battle with Sammael. Gabriel finds that Amitiel (Samantha Noble) has fallen further than the other angels, and she is now a strung-out hooker working for Asmodeus (Michael Piccirilli). By the time he helps save her, Sammael has become aware of Gabriel’s presence, and dispatches his nefarious minions to destroy him. This, of course, leads to a series of showdowns as Gabriel attempts to reunite with the remaining archangels, who have all been in hiding from Sammael. With the future of Purgatory hanging in the balance, Gabriel prepares for a final confrontation with Sammael.

Gabriel draws deep from a pool of influence that includes The Crow, Blade Runner and The Matrix, and relies heavily on these and other films in defining itself. This goes a long way to explain why the movie seems to be unsure of itself at times, as if suffering from a cinematic identity crisis. The script, written by director Abbess and Matt Hylton Todd (who co-stars as archangel Ithuriel), tries very hard to sound intelligent, so much so that it ventures into pretentious, over-written and muddled—sometimes all within the same scene. The result is a movie that comes across as an artistic/intellectual statement masked as an action film.

The first segment in a planned trilogy, Gabriel feels more like either a pilot for a television series or a tie-in to a video game. And none of this is to say that the film is bad, because more than anything it is just not consistently good. On the positive end of the spectrum, Whitfield gives a solid performance, and has enough charisma to carry the film, especially during the scenes when it really needs to be carried. He has the acting chops to pull off the character of Gabriel, who is disorientated by his new role in human form, but still driven by his warrior archangel soul to confront the Fallen. Equally important, Whitfield is able to sell the film’s action sequences, which are the best parts of Gabriel.

Produced on a ridiculously low budget, and under extreme condition, this Australian production manages to overcome its many pitfalls to become an entertaining diversion. It would be interesting to see what Abbess and company could do with some real money, because while Gabriel is not a great film, but for what it is, it is enjoyable. If you are a fan of films like The Crow—at least the first one, and not the crappy sequels—then you should enjoy Gabriel. The film is entertaining enough that it warrants at least one viewing, and some of the action sequences are cool enough to justify repeated viewings—provided you fast forward through the other parts.



One Response to “dvd review: GABRIEL”

  1. D-nice Says:

    Seems interesting…….concept wise. Looks like something Keanu Reeves should have done instead of that dreaded Constantine:-(

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