“Far From Grace”
Directed by Shane Abbess
Starring Andy Whitfield and Dwaine Stevenson
The souls of the dead go either to Heaven, or to Hell, or to Purgatory, here depicted as Gotham City with the shine buffed off, locked in perpetual darkness because the Light is losing the eternal battle over the fate of the city’s souls. The last Arc Angel (sic), Gabriel, is sent down in human form to restore light to Purgatory with a pure heart, dauntless faith, and a pair of silenced .45s, but the Fallen are waiting for him.
What’s wrong with it?
Gabriel is one of those films that take elements from successful movies and emulates them badly. The film lifts from The Prophecy, The Matrix, Sin City and Blade, among others, but lacks the money or the talent to pull it off. It’s moody lighting is merely dark, its dramatic music overwhelming and laden with bathos, and its attempted mix of philosophical dialectic and hard-edged profanity comes out swinging wildly from childish potty mouth to dull and incomprehensible rambling. On the rare occasions when the film actually makes a point, it doesn’t seem to know what it is.
There is also an unpleasant aftertaste of misogyny in the fact that the one female Fallen is a pseudo-sapphic bondage queen and the only female Arc, having been beaten by Sammael, is reportedly raped and then forced into prostitution, and survives the slaughter of the other Arcs through pointless apathy.
What’s right with it?
Sadly, the handful of occasions where the film is actually saying something or getting a shot right are quickly spoiled by incompetent handling.
How bad is it really?
Oh my, it’s bad. It’s also, despite its level best efforts to be dramatic, dull as paste.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Perhaps the most memorable scene, in a somewhat horrifying way, is the reveal of Asmodeus’ whore, altered by plastic surgery to look like him.
What’s up with…?
- The baffled and baffling denouement? ‘Sammael’ is revealed to be the fallen ‘Arc’ Michael, chafing under the authority of the Light. Rallying to defeat him, Gabriel declares ‘the Light isn’t control, it’s choice’, but then inexplicably decides that if he goes back to the Light then an unavoidable cycle will begin again and apparently kills himself. I guess the filmmakers suddenly felt bad that they weren’t sticking it to the man.
- The terminology? Light instead of Heaven, okay, but ‘Arc’ instead of archangel? What’s up with that? Did they not realise that it has an actual etymology?
- Everyone warning Gabriel that indulging human passions is how the Arcs lose their strength, then him having redemptive sex with the wingless Amitiel/Jade to save him from his own Fall? Actually, I’d be okay with this if I thought it was about being sex positive, rather than just getting some sex in the movie.
- The conflicting messages that the Arcs are supposed to provide an example, then when anyone takes hope from Gabriel’s presence they get slaughtered like chumps?
Production values – Much in the vein of the great Albert Pyun, bad movie superstar, Shane Abbess appears to know how to make a good film, he just can’t actually manage to do it. On a limited budget he tries to make something memorable and distinctive, but everything is actually derivative, and by failing to recognise his constraints, he produces something ill-lit, mumbling and confused. 16
Dialogue and performances – Aside from the odd shouty bit, there isn’t much of note in any of the performances, with lines like ‘hello; how’ve you been’ getting the same level of emotion as ‘you were my brother and you betrayed me’. Still; any more effort would have been wasted on the lines. 18
Plot and execution – A mad jumble of ideas and ideologies, plus some stock bad guy nastiness and misogyny. 17
Randomness – The mishmash of philosophies; the sudden reversals; the redemption sex. 16
Waste of potential – It’s hardly an original or the most promising of concepts, but there is a lot of room to have done this better. 14