by A. Colin TangemanContributing Writer
When Gregory Widen wrote Highlander during his school days at UCLA, he couldn't have expected the runaway success of the film that inspired two sequels and a syndicated television series. Returning now as screenwriter and director of the supernatural thriller The Prophecy, Widen hopes that lightning will strike twice.
But where Highlander soared with high energy and great chemistry, The Prophecy flounders as a dour exercise in mediocrity. Once again though, Widen does premise his film on an interesting idea. In his current effort, a second war in heaven has broken out and is being fought on earth between loyal and renegade angels.
With Christopher Walken in the cast as the forsaken archangel, Gabriel, you might think that The Prophecy had a chance, but Walken's predictably strange performance doesn't save the film from failure.
The actual focus of The Prophecy, however, is on Elias Koteas. Koteas plays an ex-priest whose faith has been shaken (a literal "doubting Thomas"), and his current occupation as a homicide detective has brought him into contact with a trail of mysterious religious artifacts that leads him to a small town in Arizona.
There Koteas teams up with a local school teacher (Virginia Madsen) to battle Walken over an ancient soul, captive in the body of a young Navajo girl, that could tip the balance in the heavenly conflict.
What the first Highlander film utilized so effectively, and what Widen as a director does not seem comfortable with, is an appropriate sense of scale. Highlander also deals with immortal characters, representatives of good and evil, who we follow through several hundred years of conflict. Widen's notion of war in heaven is another grandiose idea that deserves to be treated with the same level of importance. Instead, he takes a big-scale concept and compresses it into a drab, claustrophobic chase flick.
Widen also tries desperately to invest his film with an aura of supernatural mystique. He attempts to portray this by shooting everything in shadow and suffusing every scene with monotonous organ music and operatic yodeling.
Compounding the serious directorial inadequacies of The Prophecy, Widen's dialogue is both meandering and obvious. It's never a thrill to listen to characters incessantly catalogue events we've just seen.
To conclude his film, Widen has thrown in an appearance by a curiously benign Satan, mixed in a little Indian spiritualism, and capped off the storyline with a self-indulgent narration that should have been left on the editing-room floor. Don't be fooled by the promos on this one; it's a first-class waste of time.