The Prophecy (1995)
Starring: Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stoltz, Viggo Mortensen, Moriah Snyder
Also known as: God’s Army
“I’m an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even – when I feel like it – rip the souls from little girls. And from now until kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.” (Gabriel, The Prophecy)
Angels, eh? They’re a bloody nuisance. They’re not happy with being all immortal and that, they want control of Heaven too. That’s why there’s a ruddy big war up in the clouds, and that’s why some angels have come to Earth to try to find something that will gain them an advantage in their holy war.
As luck would have it, they’re both after the same thing – the soul of a dead colonel who was, by all accounts, a bit of a hard man and a complete prick, as most men who peel the faces off Chinese soldiers tend to be. The angels believe that with this soul, they can finally win the war in Heaven.
Good angel Simon finds the soul first, and hides it by placing it inside a little girl called Mary. Meanwhile, fallen angel Gabriel (Walken) is looking for it too and is perfectly willing to rip Mary apart to get it. It’s up to a police detective (Koteas) and Mary’s teacher (Madsen) to make sure that doesn’t happen. No wonder teachers strike for better wages.
Christopher Walken is by far the best thing about The Prophecy, and probably the main reason the film spawned four sequels (two of which Walken returned for). As Gabriel he’s genuinely creepy and, in true Walken style, you can never really tell what he’s thinking. Is he genuinely angry with the humans he encounters (the “monkeys”, as he calls them), or is he just toying with them? It’s difficult to tell, and this makes his performance so unsettling.
I wish I could say the same about the rest of the cast, but for the most part it’s Dull City all round. Elias Koteas puts in a reasonable shift as the police detective struggling with his own lack of faith and his religious past, but you never really feel for him.
Meanwhile, Virginia Madsen puts in more or less the same effort as she did in Candyman, which is to say not that much. You find yourself thinking “she’s a bit like Gillian Anderson”, then wishing she was Gillian Anderson, then remembering that Gillian Anderson was pretty wooden too, then ultimately deciding that it would still probably have been worth having her instead just because she’s Gillian Anderson.
And don’t even get me started with the introduction of the Native American healers later in the movie. They’re called on to try and get the soul out of little Mary, but it genuinely seems like the filmmakers just went to a central reservation, found some Native Americans and paid them a few thousand bucks to just sit there and not react to anything. Whether it’s souls coming out of children, bodies bursting into flames or cars driving through the side of their homes, they just sit in the background not bothering in the slightest.
Luckily, acting aside The Prophecy isn’t too bad. While its plot is a pretty serious one it places its tongue in its cheek from time to time, with funny dialogue keeping things entertaining (when Madsen tells Walken to go to Hell, he snarkily replies “Heaven darling, Heaven. At least get the zipcode right”). Then during the final act, the film improves with the last-minute addition of Viggo Mortensen who turns up as Lucifer to fuck about with things.
I wouldn’t be in a rush to watch The Prophecy if I were you unless you’re a huge fan of Christopher Walken, wars in Heaven or catatonic Native Americans. Walken does save it from being a complete borefest but even the inimitable delights of the Walkmeister can’t turn it into an essential film.
WHERE CAN I SEE IT?
You can get The Prophecy on a DVD for a few quid here. It’s also available on the UK Netflix service.
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