MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Fantasy-Thriller/ Stars: Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stoltz, Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer, Moriah Shining Dove Snyder, Adam Goldberg, Steve Hytner, J.C. Quinn, Jeff Cadiente, Patrick McAllister, Albert Nelson/ Runtime: 97 minutes
I think it should be noted right off the bat that the movie I am reviewing for your pleasure today, 1995’s supernatural thriller The Prophecy is a film that constructs its core narrative around the infamous smackdown between a trinity of the most phenomenal forces in the universe in the forms of God, his merry band of angels, and ol’ Scratch (Satan) himself. To that end, such a phenomenal clash to end all clashes (at least until we get Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash vs. Pinhead vs. Angela Baker vs. Chucky vs. Michael Myers) warrants a downright riveting cinematic equivalent. Yet instead of the say all, end all iconic film we were expecting, we instead get out of film helmer Gregory Widen a film that is an, astonishingly, run of the mill entry in the subgenre known as Religious Thrillers that, despite being in possession of some actually good performances, is a decent at best slice of cinematic pie that cannot for the life of it escape the typical things you would expect from a film like this and dare to be its own thing. No the film is not bad to the point that it feels like your soul is getting sucked from your body (actually on second thought there are souls being sucked here, but take it easy movie goer: it’s all part of the narrative), but this slice of cinematic pie still is fairly albeit also frustratingly void of life. Heck even as we see perennial screen icon Christopher Walken managing to do a fairly impressive job in a role that has him earmarked from the start, this film still manages to tell us a whole lot of things that are neither worth witnessing or even listening to in the first place. Suffice it to say then that this is run-of-the-mill material aka a slice of cinematic pie that thankfully is not as bad as it could have been, but is still fairly uncreative whilst operating with a scale too big for its budget and ideas too grand for its ambitions with a final product being no more and no less than a head-scratching in how odd it was assembled mid-level thrill ride with religious context that whilst never living up to its potential is not exactly a movie that manages to be damning in its execution either.
The plot is as follows: The Prophecy tells us the story of a man by the name of Thomas Dagget. Mr. Dagget, we quickly learn, is a man who aspired to be a priest but who, after seeing terrible things on the day he was to be inducted into the church, decided to walk away from that path in his life. Nowadays it seems Tom has become a devoted cop, albeit one with a lot of religious knowledge on his belt, and who as our story opens is about to find himself headfirst in perhaps the biggest law enforcement case in the history of mankind. A case that incidentally is instigated by the appearance of an individual calling himself Simon who soon reveals that not only is he an angel, but he also has a dire warning he would like to pass on to our determined man of the badge. To that end, we soon witness our dogged detective as he embarks on the case of a recently whacked guy who is actually another angel and whose apartment yields an astonishing discovery. A discovery that takes the form of an until now unknown chapter from the holy tome of Revelations that tells about an impending second shakedown between God and his merry band of angels and also of a distinct soul that could be the deciding factor in the whole shebang. Thus it isn’t long after that we see Simon acquire this soul from the body of a recently passed on military officer only to then put it in the unknowing care of a kind and decent little girl by the name of Mary who, in doing so, becomes the reluctant caretaker of the most coveted item in this world, Heaven, or even Hell for that matter. Unfortunately for her, we also learn that no less than the angel Gabriel has decided to pay our little planet a visit in the hopes that he’ll be able to find the soul for himself; a mission that he will stop at absolutely nothing to fulfill. Thus can our intrepid former member of the priesthood, with Mary’s schoolteacher along for the ride, not only thwart Gabriel and his devious machinations, but also maybe just maybe the Devil himself? That, dear reader is the question and the answer is one that I shall leave you to discover for yourself…..
Now for all that I have said about how run of the mill this slice of cinematic pie ultimately is, there are at least a few things to admire about this movie. The first of these is the film does have the quite unique narrative hook of the fact that our main protagonist has lost faith in the Lord not because of something that happened on Earth, but instead through something done by God himself. Suffice it to say then that the character of Dagget, or at least his past, is fairly engaging. A man who wished since he was a child to be a priest and serve in the Church, Thomas turned his back on this pursuit in the aftermath of being the unwilling recipient of a series of quite horrific visions which in turn gave him a view of the genuine wickedness that, although connected to our world, thrives on a world separate from ours at the same time. Yet it is said that the Lord works in mysterious ways, and we quickly see proof of this as apparently Thomas choosing to leave the church and instead become a cop was all, on some wavelength, an aspect of God’s blueprint to both allow Thomas to handle the case and comprehend those involved so he could play his “preordained role” in this divine squabble going down on Earth. Indeed it really is an intriguing arc for a character to undertake and a very ingenious way to show us just how clever fate or divine meddling can be. It’s so frustrating therefore that this riveting perspective is used in such a mehhh kind of film. Indeed this film’s swift descent from a slightly intriguing religious thrill ride to a “been there, done that” cop procedural just doesn’t do any of the characters involved justice, but at least the film does have some fairly good performances to make things just a tad bit easier.
Indeed, the second key ingredient that makes this film a somewhat worthwhile viewing experience is the fact that it manages to house some astonishingly good acting performances within it. For starters there is Elias Koteas as our main hero Thomas and, despite the dynamic arc the character is presented with, the performer just simply is unable to live up to it. Rather, he chooses to give us a version of the character that is the typical brooding and inwardly hurting cop who little by little finds himself and his purpose in life again through the events of the film. Yet while we do get fairly decent work from Viggo Mortensen who manages to bring a fair bit of energy into his extended cameo role of Public Enemy #1 Lucifer, the movie is swept out from under everyone else by perennial screen icon Christopher Walken in the role of Gabriel. No this role is most certainly not the best performance Walken has ever given, but it is most definitely one that manages to brilliantly sum up who Walken is as a thespian in that Walken is easily the kind of performer who has been blessed with the phenomenal talent of dripping wickedness with a smile on his lips and a lively jump in his step….all while a river of acidic rancor and twisted vileness roar like a lion internally. Indeed it isn’t no secret to say that the performance given by Walken manages to save this slice of cinematic pie from sinking in the quicksand of mediocrity; it’s just a crying shame that everything else in this film couldn’t rise and meet him on his level of excellence.
All in all I think it is relatively easy and safe for me to say that The Prophecy is an iconic example of a film that should have been more than it ultimately turns out to be. A statement that can be backed up by the fact that both the narrative and the group of characters at play are simply too massive in size for a movie that, including credits, runs 3 minutes shy of an hour and 40 minutes and as a result the movie simply begins falling apart under all of the weight it is trying to lift. To that end, whilst the movie is one that has an excruciatingly bad sense of tempo it is at least admirably performed by a game cast. Perhaps the most crippling blow to the overall movie though is the fact that the narrative is way too predictable when taking into account the rather unique cast of players at the heart of it. Ultimately though this slice of cinematic pie is one that can be whittled away down to a typical pursuit/mystery film that has the distinction of incorporating select Biblical characters. The truth is dear reader is that the vast majority of religious-themed cinematic thrill rides have never been able to ensnare the core or magnitude of what they are dealing with. As a result movies like this instead manage to become slices of cinematic pie with no gravitas or reason for existing which really is sad especially when taking into account the fact that, if done right, a movie like this could be both truly riveting and delightfully novel in the best ways possible. As it is though this film is decent with a plate of mehhh on the side. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Prophecy “95” a solid 2.5 out of 5.