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Genre Fantasy
Year: 2007

Gabriel is a rare Australian film. Most movies of this genre seem to originate from the United States, but Gabriel is from down under. Director, writer and producer Shane Abbess started the production on a shoestring budget of $150,000. This low budget movie deserved a big budget and was also strapped for time. Abbess did the unthinkable by trying to get by shooting at night and taking various day jobs to help fund the film. He watched movies like Donnie Darko, and harnessed the raw power of a young and enthusiastic ensemble. While the actual film-making process was admirable and dedicated, the end result is less than perfect. Gabriel does demonstrate what can be done on a limited budget, but lacks the luxury of films such as The Crow, The Matrix, Highlander, Constantine and Blade Runner. These are its primary influences and the story takes stylistic elements from The Crow/Blade Runner, action and wardrobe from The Matrix and story/theme from Constantine/Highlander. The end result is actually quite beautiful in its simplicity, but lacks the scale, impetus and depth of its influences. This makes Gabriel seem inconsistent and the ensemble don’t have the experience of a seasoned actor to fall back on.

Andy Whitfield plays the title character and looks like a lead, but doesn’t have the finesse or presence of a Keanu Reeves or Christopher Lambert as he is sent to purgatory to destroy the darkness and restore the light.. Dwaine Stevenson is Sammael, the dark angel villain in his debut performance. He commands an eerie presence with his stature and white eyes. However, the character doesn’t have enough fire power and this affects the scale of the production.

Gabriel is something of a comic book movie in its style and execution. The story parallels with most video game plots as the henchmen lead to the big boss. The movie tries everything to add more weight. Strobe light fight sequences, torch lighting, hoses for rain and shooting at abandoned industrial sites. These “quick fixs” make the movie more visually appealing, but the story doesn’t have the magnitude of Highlander and lacks the intellectual stamina of The Matrix. The Gothic look, coloured contact lens’s, CGI and vampire angel crossover give Gabriel an inhabitable world, but force them to shoot in a film noir style. The beautiful clash of colour, light, make up and wardrobe are acceptable, but purgatory seems localised to the action like there’s nothing beyond the urgency of now. The actors are handsome and beautiful enough to make the grade, but the performances are stilted. The lines are delivered more slowly to stretch scenes and to sustain the notion of otherness to the world. This works for David Lynch, but ruins the pacing of the film. Gabriel drags its heels in the beginning and the editing deliver short sharp bursts and then slips into a daydream state. Shane Abbess is inspirational for all young directors and its fantastic to see an independent movie of this nature coming from Australia. However, the film lacks the depth and budget of a bigger production. The strong visual element isn’t able to compensate for poor pacing, an arcade game storyline and makeshift visual effects. Gothic movies of this calibre have been made better and while Gabriel is interesting to watch, it’s not able to absorb its audience.

The bottom line: Ambitious.

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