The city has a moody attractiveness in ``Fallen,'' befitting this high-concept attempt to combine the deftly exploitative horror of ``The Exorcist'' with the MTV atmospherics of ``Seven,'' while drawing on religious themes common to both movies.
The best asset in ``Fallen'' is Washington, who anchors this sometimes farfetched movie with his customarily solid presence as a no-nonsense homicide detective whom we meet as he enthusiastically attends the execution of the serial killer (Elias Koteas) he put behind bars.
Moments before dying by injection, the killer confronts Hobbes by speaking in tongues and making veiled threats about visits from beyond the grave. Tough-guy Hobbes sneers, until the series of murders he purportedly solved continues after the execution.
The new victims are killed in the same manner as old victims, and conspicuous clues indicate that the crimes were almost certainly committed by the same man - unnerving, since the man in question is dead.
The irreligious Hobbes and his equally skeptical partner (John Goodman) are further confounded by evidence that the renewed series of murders has a supernatural component, one rooted in Old Testament stories about fallen angels and demons. To sort out these clues, Hobbes consults with a theologian (Embeth Davidtz), who has other weird connections to the case.
``Fallen'' has an intriguing set-up and is strong on atmosphere, an aspect of the movie Philadelphians will particularly enjoy, since ``Fallen'' contains so many stylishly photographed local neighborhoods and landmarks.
As the wiggy, ``X-Files''-influenced hokum piles up, however, ``Fallen,'' hampered by some woefully ripe dialogue and needlessly dense plotting, becomes too difficult to swallow.
Even so, ``Fallen'' scores last-minute points with an ending that avoids the easy, audience-pleasing payoff, and stays laudably in step with the movie's theme - the dual knowledge that if life is eternal, so is the struggle between good and evil.
Fallen Grade: B- Parents' guide: R; violence
Running time: 124 minutes
Showing at: Area theaters
Hobbes - Denzel Washington
Jonesy - John Goodman
Stanton - Donald Sutherland
Gretta - Embeth Davidtz
Lou - James Gandolfini
Reese - Elias Koteas
Produced by Charles Roven and Dawn Steel, directed by Gregory Hoblit, written by Nicholas Kazan, music by Tan Dun, distributed by Warner Bros.