Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
When a “Fight Director” is listed in the opening credits, I assume a movie is going to be action-packed. Well, you know what they say about assuming: you shouldn’t do it. That expectation is certainly not met in the 2007 Australian movie, Gabriel. In fact, the beginning set-up, conveyed by use of subtitles, is more densely-packed than the entire 110+ minutes that follows.
Since the beginning of time, heaven and hell have been fighting for the souls trapped in purgatory. One per year, heaven has sent seven archangels and hell has sent seven “fallen” angels to fight the battle. They must assume human form to enter purgatory. The story begins when the final archangel, Gabriel, arrives in purgatory.
First question: if the battle has been happening since the beginning of time, does Gabriel (the movie) take place in the year 7? Because, under the rules that have been set, if Gabriel (the character) loses, there are no more archangels to follow. Six have gone before. It’s best to not focus on the logic, especially since it all comes down to the typical battle between good and evil, represented by Gabriel (Andy Whitfield) and Sammael (Dwaine Stevenson).
Apparently, when the good angels fail to defeat the bad angels, they lose all memory of their divine origins. So Gabriel’s first job is to find the former angels and attempt to snap ’em out of it. Thus begins the long, talky bulk of the movie. It’s all very dark and gloomy. And it makes me very, very sleepy.
There are some good moves in the climax, although Gabriel (the character and the movie) seems more content to talk things out rather than punch them out. To be honest, I may have missed a deeper level to the movie conveyed completely in conversation. But it didn’t interest me to try any harder to get that out of it.
As with The Clinic, which I previously reviewed, the selling point here is late actor Andy Whitfield. He has more screen time in this one, but is quietly emotionless throughout. To spin it positively, he displays a “brooding intensity”. Nevertheless, he is charismatic, even when his irises aren’t altered to reflect a heavenly blue color. (At least he has irises; his enemies have none, just large black pupils floating on a white sea of eyeball.)
Gabriel is not very original. It seems like the depiction of angels as dark warriors may have been fresh at one time, but has now become the standard. What comes to mind for me is the series begun in 1995 with The Prophecy (followed by four sequels, most direct to home video). In The Prophecy, Christopher Walken plays the archangel Gabriel. There have been more recent variations, such as Legion, but on television, Supernatural tells the story more effectively on a weekly basis.
A friend of mine reported after watching Gabriel that, “it wasn’t altogether bad”. I concur. But it’s just bad enough to not recommend. That is, unless you want to imagine what became of a shining young star removed from this life well before his time. I have to smile thinking about Andy Whitfield in heaven. He would surely be a fighting angel. I just hope he uses skills acquired in Spartacus rather than Gabriel. They’d surely get him further.