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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 02.19.08] movie review scifi action

Year: 2007
Director: Shane Abbess
Writer: Matt Hylton Todd/Shane Abbess
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Purchase the DVD: Amazon
Review by:agentorange
Rating: 7.8 out of 10

You know, whether it’s the chilling ambiguities of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, the stark nihilism of the Road Warrior, or the harsh realism of the frontier depicted in The Proposition, I’ve become what you might call a “fanboy” of Australian genre film over the years. With its uncanny ability to juggle both academia and action, excitement and existentialism, Aussie films have, quite rightly, become some of the biggest in world cinema, and their directors inspirations to a ton of ambitious up and comers. So when I say that I harbored a lot of anticipation for first time director Shane Abbess’ gothic actioner, Gabriel, what I mean is that I watched the trailer like 250,000 bagillion times and followed news of the DVD release quite closely.I mean, besides the film’s stylish neo-gothic Crowesque production design, Gabriel just happens to also come packaged with one of the sweetest story setups ever.

Taking place in Purgatory, where the forces of dark and light are in constant flux, the Arc Angel Gabriel is sent by the big G to bring light back to the realm’s inhabitants who have succumbed to, for lack of a better term, the darkside. If you’re thinking that this all sounds a lot like Nightwatch you’d be right as Timur Bekmambetov’s fantastic vampire flick is obviously another major influence on Abbess.

Unfortunately unlike Nightwatch, Gabriel spends little time delving into the mythology of this ongoing battle between the ambassadors of light and dark and instead throws us in the middle of a dark world already at the tail end of the lost conflict. Now I'm not one to begrudge a writer the desire to dispense with all the tedious bric-a-brac that comes along with exposition, but with such a cool setup like this, it would have been fun to find out about the major players and perhaps some of the more pertinent battles of the past. But that's a minor quibble and the geek coming out in me.

'Cause really, the elements that work in the film so outweigh any problems one might have with, what could be describe as, a one beat plot that any complaint just kind of sounds lame. For a film made on such a tight budget (I sleuthed out a sum of just 150,000 Aussie dollars) the action sequences are extremely well designed, original and intense while, as previously stated, the look of the film is ridiculously stylish. So if you're into the rainy dystopia of Blade Runner or that whole Underworld thing I think you'll really dig on Gabriel.

The cast is also uniformly great if but a little grim and serious in their line delivery. Personally I prefer films that find a tone early on a stick with it so it didn't bother me, but without a laugh in the house some of you may find yourselves looking for any excuse to crack a smile. Bu then again this is purgatory... I also sense somewhat of a rising star in relative newcomer Andy Whitfield who stars in the film's titular role and I wouldn't be surprised if producers aren't very soon knocking on the brooding Australians door for other upcoming Hollywood actioners.

All in all, and considering the budget, Gabriel's style and action sequences exceeded my expectations but overall the film lost points due to a screenplay that felt somewhat skimpy on the details. For a film with a running time of almost 2 hours I felt like the world it was creating could have been a bit more realized. But like I said, Abbess' ability to juggle style and action with the film's more philosophical ambition, makes Gabriel an easy recommendation.

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Marina (13 years ago) Reply

I"m really looking forward to this. I too must have seen the trailer a few hundred times and I'm excited for the moment this pops into my mailbox! Looks like one I'll enjoy!


david (12 years ago) Reply

where is my comments posted way back?????

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