The Prophecy (1995)
I have been a major fan of this film for fifteen years for many reasons, the foremost of which is the blockbuster performance of Christopher Walken as the Archangel Gabriel. Performed with sadistic malice, a fine mix of humor, and overall electrifying delivery, Walken created a memorable, classic character that would help to bring fans back for two sequels. The film is filled with great themes and a solid mix of acting talent that is surprising, but never disappointing.
The Prophecy begins with a somber monologue by Simon (Eric Stoltz), a redheaded angel. He speaks of his fear and sorrow that a second war has broken out in Heaven. Simon has come to Earth to head off the plans of ‘the other side’ who wish to claim the blackest human soul on Earth to fight for them in Heaven. Our protagonist here is Thomas Daggett (Elias Koteas). Once set to become an ordained priest in the Catholic church, but a violent and bloody vision of Heaven, complete with the sight of slain angels, tests his faith. A test which he fails. He is now a police detective that has long lost his faith, but has just met an angel. Simon to be exact. Simon tells Thomas that he was in the church that day when he got his brief glimpse of a war torn Heaven, and certainly leaves him with much to think about. However, when Simon returns to his rented out apartment, he is attacked by another angel: Uziel (pronounced ‘Oo-cie’), but Simon dispatches of him, leaving quite a mess for the police to clean up with Daggett now on the case. Unfortunately, for Simon, because Uziel is now dead, Gabriel (Christopher Walken) soon comes to succeed where his underling failed.
Meanwhile, Daggett and coroner Joseph (Steve Hytner) examine Uziel’s corpse. Many bizarre revelations are discovered, but for Thomas, it’s the discovery of possibly the oldest Bible in existence which contains extra chapters that shouldn’t exist. They speak of the aforementioned second war in Heaven, a war over us, humans. As Gabriel arrives at the empty crime scene, Simon has already found the aforementioned soul within the recently deceased Colonel Hawthorne in a small southwestern town, and Gabriel is soon to follow. In this small town, we meet school teacher Catherine (Virginia Madsen) and a little Native American girl named Mary (Moriah Shining Dove Snyder). Simon encounters them both while he attempts to hide this black soul from Gabriel, but the Archangel is hot on his trail along with Thomas. While Gabriel tracks down the soul and Simon himself, Thomas attempts to unravel this mystery before him, and ultimately, discover what is ‘faith’.
Gregory Widen once brought us the screenplay for the original Highlander showcasing a blend of adventure, romance, love, pain, and epic action. Here, in 1995, he wrote and directed this film, and brings that same level of depth and quality to The Prophecy. He created an engaging, compelling world filled with fascinating and entertaining characters that are brilliantly realized throughout the cast. His directing skills are not at all in question as he obviously knows what he wants with crystal clarity. He knows the world he created well, and handles the various elements of drama, fantasy, humor, and action with ease and grace. Everything flows together exceptionally well making this a must-see film.
As I said, Christopher Walken delivers a performance unlike any before seen, and demonstrates many sides of his acting abilities throughout. It’s mesmerizing watching him work each and every scene. How he can go from quiet calm to vilely sadistic and evil, even heated and angered. It’s an intense portrayal that will gravitate you towards watching this film many times over because you just can’t get enough of it. It’s all there, and it’s juicy stuff. Elias Koteas has always done fantastic work in the few roles I’ve seen him in from the guilty pleasure of Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to his psychotic role as Edgar Reese, opposite Denzel Washington, in Fallen. Elias does solid work no matter the character, and becomes very much a chameleon as an actor. He continues that here as a man who has his faith in God, broken and tested throughout the film. He beautifully portrays the depth of Thomas Daggett on a journey, not only in hopes of restoring such faith, but understanding just what it means to have faith. Eric Stoltz is an actor I really haven’t seen any other work from, but if this performance is any indication, he does some fine work. He brings a simple warmth, heart, and charm to Simon. You truly do care for him, and what he chooses to sacrifice in order to protect that which HE believes in. Whether he’s sharing a scene with Koteas, Walken, or the little Moriah Snyder, his heart and warmth remain strong. It’s a truly human performance, especially considering he’s portraying an angel.
Virginia Madsen (Candyman) brings us another strong, consistent performance here. She holds her ground, even when Walken pulls out his truly dark side as Gabriel. Also, her character is well connected to the Native Americans of the land, and conducts the church choir. Her faith is intact, but as the true underlying theme here continues to be the testing of one’s faith, she confronts her own perceptions of it all. Moriah Snyder is not one of those kids in a horror film that gets on your nerves every second they’re in a scene. She is clearly a highly talent young lady, and I’m sure that talent has continued to develop over the years since this film. Here, there’s much here for her to work with, more than I’ll elude to in this review, but trust in that she has a significant role in this film that she handles quite well.
And then, you have two smaller, yet significant, and certainly memorable roles. The first is that portrayed by Steve Hytner (Kenny Bania from Seinfeld). He portrays the coroner Joseph with a light-hearted charm, but with a professional manner. It’s just the sort of character to slightly lighten the mood when Daggett is talking about wars in Heaven over human souls, and dead angels sitting in Joseph’s morgue. It’s a quite needed and welcomed character that Hytner plays perfectly. He doesn’t go remotely over-the-top with it, and keeps a nice balance between the mild humor and the professional mind of the character. It was nice to see his character carried over into the following two sequels. Of course, the real juice comes with the appearance of The Lord of the Rings’ Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer. Viggo portrays the Prince of Darkness himself with as much character as Walken does with Gabriel. Mortensen brings a genuine disturbing and sadistic sense that just oozes from his being. The role is small, but Viggo makes it no less significant than any other main character. He brings to Lucifer a casual, evil manner. He speaks of the most vile and sadistic acts with the casualness of us talking about the weather. He needn’t be theatrical or overly dramatic to sell it. His chilling presence is felt the instant he enters the scene, and remains even after he leaves. When he and Walken do briefly meet, the two just eat it up. It’s devilishly delicious (no pun intended). The two with their hot breath and cold blood just makes such a scene so rich with character, and it’s only a shame Viggo didn’t return for The Prophecy II when Lucifer makes a brief, shadowy appearance near the beginning. The role may have been expanded upon if he had.
I also really have to hand it to the cinematographer Richard Clabaugh. This is one beautifully shot film between the lighting, angles, and the subtle camera movements. He does all he can to give the picture a strong cinematic sense capturing both the epic and introspective qualities of its dramatic stories. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio frame holds a lot of weight with much religious iconography, and captures some beautiful vistas in the American southwest. A gorgeously shot film through and through.
All in all, this is one fantastic film that I strongly encourage everyone to see. It’s a gem of a thriller that touches on many different levels with superb acting with a rock solid cast. Gregory Widen, for his directorial debut, put together an array of fantastic talent in front of and behind the camera. This is a beautiful and fantastically talented production. The Prophecy brings you a great film on so many levels, and is a MUST for any Christopher Walken fan. I strongly recommend this film. It gets my highest praise with a solid 10 out of 10 rating.