Walken's intense edge and dark comedic sense breathe life into Gabriel's sardonic and ruthless persona. His reluctant sidekick Jerry (Adam Goldberg) provides macabre levity as a miserable but wisecracking suicide victim whom Gabriel temporarily reanimates. Koteas ("Exotica") does a good job with what he's given, but his potentially compelling character is not explored in sufficient depth. Eric Stoltz's portrayal of a good angel named Simon is interesting, but again we need to learn more about him (and the rest of his kind). Virginia Madsen is fine as a strong- spirited schoolteacher who becomes entangled in the goings-on, but her character isn't at all intrinsic to the plot; it seems her part was written solely to fulfill a perceived need for a female love interest.
The plot is undermined by the fact that the stakes of a war between angels and mankind are not clearly articulated, making it too abstract to incite a sense of true peril. We should have seen an entire army of angels-gone-bad demonstrating the havoc they could wreak. The many great ideas in this film should have been left inthe darkroom a while longer until they fully developed. Starring Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Eric Stoltz and Virginia Madsen. Directed and written by Gregory Widen. Produced by Joel Soisson, W.K. Border and Michael Leary. Thriller. A Miramax release. Rated R for violence and gore, and for some language. Running time: 91 min.