Aussie self-consciousness, whether it figures in support of this film or against it, ain't relevant. Gabriel is a great existential-goth-action piece about archangels and their nemeses warring in human form and grappling with their newfound human frailties. For budgetary reasons the film favours the goth and the existential elements over the action one, and it's definitely all the better for it, because what it ultimately develops which is sorely lacking from a lot of films whose stylings it's adopted (the Underworlds, the Crows, etc.) is a ton of genuine involvement. The unknown actors give universally fine performances, and in the case of bad guy Sammael (Dwaine Stevenson) a deeply charismatic and disturbing one.
I was a bit worried by the wordlessness and flat grey look of the earliest scenes, but as soon as we hit the first dialogue two-hander, I got pulled into the characters' situation. Also, the film never looks as grey again as it does right at the start, even if the digital video footage doesn't give much depth of field in this dark world.
The fights are spaced out, but they're very cool. The choreography is of The Matrix almost ESP-martial arts kind, yet filmed in nice clear wide shots with minimal editing (or editing that's well-disguised by passing obstacles) so you can see what's going on. Sometimes it's guns, sometimes hand-to-hand, sometimes both, with bullet time, slow-mo, folks zipping around bullets, all the nifty stuff that's been developed in this genre. There's also an exciting shootout in strobing darkness that reminded me of Equilibrium's gun cabal scenes.
The film Gabriel reminds me of most strongly, however, isn't something super recent. It's Blade Runner. In that film, replicant robots unsure of their identity and nascent emotions variously went into hiding, went insane or fought for their survival in a world that wasn't really theirs when push came to shove. Replace 'robots' with 'angels' and you've got the basic premise of Gabriel. The angels are sent to purgatory to get in amongst the humans and steer them in the right direction, or in the case of bad guys The Fallen, keep them corrupt. But to adopt the mortal form is to become vulnerable to human weakness, and that's what Gabriel has to struggle with as he tries to rally his angel pals who've failed before him for one last battle.
Freakin' good film!
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