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Gabriel

Year: 2008
Production Co: HILT Productions
Studio: Sony
Director: Shane Abess
Producer: Shane Abess
Writer: Shane Abess
Cast: Andy Whitfield, Dwaine Stevenson, Samantha Noble
All the reviews of this film seemed to be in a similar vein; an 'A' for effort but a case of style over substance.

And yes, director Shane Abess - after scraping together a miniscule budget and getting the local backing of Sony to make it look like millions - does homage (and rip off) so many films, styles and moods it's like a Best Of album from his DVD collection. The Crow, Blade Runner, The Matrix and Underworld are all quite overtly referenced.

But despite the over-styled look and texture and the grandiose dialogue, it's a good movie. The story's no less unoriginal than any other of the Hollywood thrillers that eat themselves year after year (which the above list of films proves).

The seven archangels from Heaven have been sent to Purgatory to overcome the Fallen (demons) and release the human souls to let them go to Heaven. All six have failed, and it's up to Gabriel (Whitfield, cheesy but charismatic) to save the day.

It was a nice touch how the former angels hadn't all died but had succumbed to the temptations of Purgatory – they're born into human bodies when they arrive and are subject to all the foibles of being human as a result. One is living in a clapped out bus in an abandoned drive-in, drinking himself to death, another is a drug-fucked hooker, etc.

The most mysterious disappearance is that of Michael, and Gabriel is determined to find him to help rally those few left against the forces of Sammael – leader of the Fallen – and win the war. His absence is hinted at enigmatically a few times, and there seems to be a reason Sammael is holding his minions back when they're obviously stronger than Gabriel.

No, I didn't see the twist coming so it was a nice surprise and an example of how Abess was as concerned with the story as he was with the fight scenes and gun battles. For the very low (and secretive) budget, its looks great, with very slick sets, design and colour. Nothing you haven't seen before, but stuff you want to see again. Abess is one to watch.

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