SUPERNATURAL `FALLEN' LOADED WITH SUSPICION.
``Fallen'' starts out spooky and then spreads on the dread so thick that by the time the film's final scene rolls around, you're starting to regard the guy sitting next to you with a slight twinge of paranoia.
Suspicion - however delusional - is certainly a legitimate response after watching a two-hour movie where evil hops from person to person through a tap on the shoulder. It's an unnerving premise. Evil can be anywhere and everywhere - in your neighbor (possible), your neighbor's barking dog (likely), your boss (that would explain a lot) or, gulp, even yourself.
The fact that you leave the theater fearing for yourself and humanity (OK, so it wears off after five minutes) is a nice accomplishment for a movie that successfully manages to weave together the police and supernatural genres in a sort of ``NYPD Blue''-meets-``The X-Files'' hybrid.
Since the villain of ``Fallen'' is an unseen demon that has been around since the dawn of time, you're going to have to suspend your disbelief for the duration of the film. But director Gregory Hoblit uses the demon's invisibility to great effect, creating fear from the unseen, which is always scarier than the gutted bodies that populate typical slasher fare.
``Fallen'' opens at the execution of a serial killer, played with malicious glee by Elias Koteas. The cop who collared him, John Hobbes (Denzel Washington), is there for the send-off and visits the killer in his cell for one last goodbye.
Instead of finding a prisoner who's remorseful or afraid to die, Hobbes encounters a man who almost seems happy to be going to the gas chamber. He's smiling, he's laughing, he's practically bursting with joy. And he just can't seem to stop singing and whistling the Rolling Stones classic ``Time Is on My Side.''
Hobbes learns the significance of the song when corpses begin to turn up murdered just like the Happy Serial Killer used to do it. Hobbes and his partner, the always likable John Goodman, think the killings are the work of a copycat. The truth, Hobbes soon discovers, is much more terrifying.
Hoblit manages several wonderfully chilling scenes in which the demon taunts Hobbes by moving from person to person - usually while singing ``Time Is on My Side.'' A Stones song hasn't been this scary since Mick Jagger sang ``Sympathy for the Devil'' (which plays, naturally, over the closing credits) at Altamont back in 1969.
Since this demon has been practicing murder for thousands of years, it's quite good at what it does. As Hobbes sinks deeper and deeper into the underworld, he has a devil of a time (sorry) figuring out how to protect his family (he lives with his brother and nephew) and society from a presence that seemingly anticipates his every move.
Washington is always convincing playing the slightly flawed man of principle, and here he gives the film a strong moral center, much as he did in ``Crimson Tide,'' ``The Pelican Brief'' and ``Philadelphia.'' Goodman, Donald Sutherland (as Washington's boss) and Koteas capably lend support.
Some of the movie does bog down in supernatural mumbo jumbo. But that's part of the territory, isn't it? ``The Exorcist'' provided moments of unintentional humor, too, but still managed to scare the bejesus out you when it came time to spew the pea soup.
``Fallen'' breaks no new ground, but it's good for a few tingles and chills. You'll leave the theater whistling a song (``Time Is on My Side'') and deftly avoiding your neighbor in the parking lot.
The film: ``Fallen'' (R; violence, language).
The stars: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini, Elias Koteas.
Behind the scenes: Directed by Gregory Hoblit. Produced by Charles Roven and Dawn Steel. Written by Nicholas Kazan. Released by Warner Bros.
Running time: Two hours, four minutes.
Our rating: Three Stars.
Photo: Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) learns a terrifying truth in ``Fallen.''
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|Title Annotation:||L.A. LIFE|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Movie Review|
|Date:||Jan 16, 1998|
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