Critical Review and Bibliography
“GABRIEL” (2007)
MATTHEW BOWRON 
SECTION I:
GABRIEL (2007)

CAST
Andy Whitfield as Gabriel
Dwaine Stevenson as Sammael/Michael
Samantha Noble as Amitiel/Jade
Erika Heynatz as Lilith
Harry Pavlidis as Uriel
Jack Campbell as Raphael
Michael Piccirilli as Asmodeus
Matt Hylton Todd as Ithuriel
Kevin Copeland as Ahriman
Brendan Clearkin as Balan
CREW
Director – Shane Abbess
Writers – Shane Abbess and Matt Hylton Todd
Producers –          Kirsty Vernon
                 Anne Cridland
                 Shane Abbess
Executive Producers – James M. Vernon
                             Wayne Duband
Post Production Producer – Mat Graham
Associate Producer – Matt Hylton Todd
Director of Photography – Peter A Holland
Production Designer – Victor Lam
Costume Designer – Lisa Walpole
Composer – Brian Cachia
RELEASE DATES:
Gabriel was premiered in Australia at The Entertainment Quarter in Sydney on November 7, 2007.
It's general Australian release was on November 15, 2007.
                                                                                                       
BUDGET AND BOX OFFICE INFORMATION:
Gabriel was shot originally for roughly $150,000. However, everyone involved in production worked on deferred payment, meaning that the actual cost of the film runs “well into the millions” once deferrals have been taken into account.
Gabriel grossed approximately $656,000 (AUS) in its Australian opening week, ranking fifth at the Australian Box Office. Gabriel's opening week gross represented the second highest of an Australian-made film released in 2007, behind Rogue, which opened the previous week with approximately $667,000 (AUS). In its opening weekend, Gabriel opened on 98 screens and averaged $4,797 per screen, the third highest per screen average of the top 20 grossing films for the weekend. In it's five weeks playing in theatres, Gabriel grossed $1,158,520 (AUS). Gabriel's earnings ranked it at 110th amongst the 295 films released in Australia in 2007.
BIBLIOGRAPHIES OF INTERVIEWS:
Kolan, Patrick. Gabriel: Au interview with Shane Abbess. IGN. (3/10/2007)
http://au.movies.ign.com/articles/824/824947p1.html
Gabriel Panel Shane Abbess and Andy Whitfield. Supernova. (12/10/2007)
5-03_Gabriel_Podcast.mp3 from www.supernova.com.au
Angel Gabriel. The Daily Telegraph. (15/11/2007)
http://publish.vx.roo.com/thedaily/videoplayer/?Channel=Telegraph+TV&ClipId=1418_193848&bitrate=300&Format=wmp
Kolan, Patrick. Exclusive: Gabriel Concept Art and AU Interview. IGN. (16/10/2007)
http://au.movies.ign.com/articles/827/827688p1.html
Gabriel Production Notes (PDF). Sony Pictures. (16/11/2007)
Fennel, Marc. Interview – Shane Abbess talks Gabriel. Triple J. (17/11/2007)
ipod_shaneabbess.mp3 from www.abc.net.au
Morris, Clint. Interview with Shane Abbess and Andy Whitfield. Moviehole. (17/11/2007)
http://www.moviehole.net/interviews/20071114_interview_shane_abbess_andy_wh.html
IMPACT UPON WEB LITERATURE
 So far there have been no books or works of literature on the net beside the reviews listed above.
BIBLIOGRAPHIES OF REVIEWS:
Urban, Andrew L. Gabriel. Urban Cinefile. (17/11/2007)
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=13678&s=Reviews 
Purcell, Charles. Heavenly Feature. The Sydney Morning Herald. (9/11/2007)
http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/heavenly-feature/2007/11/08/1194329388444.html
Gabriel director risks life and limb. Ninemsn. (9/11/2007)
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=68987
Stratton, David; Pomeranz, Margaret. At the movies. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (14/11/2007)
http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s2066063.htm
Jinman, Richard. Gabriel. The Sydney Morning Herald. (15/11/2007)
http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/gabriel/2007/11/15/1194766813387.html
Kornitz, Div, Duff, Brian. Strange Days. Filmink. (17/11/2007)
http://www.filmink.com.au/search/displayarticle.php?article_id=5428
High Water and Hell for those making Gabriel. Herald Sun. (16/11/2007)
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22768696-5006023,00.html
McCutcheon, David. Gabriel clashes DVD. IGN. (18/12/2007)
http://au.dvd.ign.com/articles/842/842049p1.html
Howard, Braff. Dark Angel (RTF) (17/11/2007)
Adams, Michael. Movieshow Review. SBS. (16/11/2007)
http://movieshow.sbs.com.au/index.php?pid=movie&cid=16345
Harvey, Shannon. Perth Now. (21/11/2007)
http:www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22802654-5005387,00.html
Tabula Rasa Review.
www.tabula-rasa.info/AusHorror/Gabriel.html
Cinema: Gabriel – Darkness versus Light in the Backstreets of Sydney. (19/11/2007)
Reviews.media-culture.org.au/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2310
SECTION II:
PLOT OUTLINE:
The War between Heaven and Hell has been raging since the beginning of time.
For centuries, a secret war has waged between Arc Angels, the guardians of The Light and The Fallen, guardians of The Dark, over the souls of the inhabitants of Purgatory.
The Light's chief protectors, the seven Arc Angels have all but disappeared in the battle to save the souls trapped in Purgatory – all except Gabriel.
As The Light's last hope for glory, Gabriel begins his quest to finally put an end to the war and find his fellow Arcs, but it is his more personal journey through the beauty and the depravity of human emotions that test's Gabriel's inner strength.
As his mission takes him through the seedy underworld of Purgatory, Gabriel – assuming a human body for the first time – will struggle with his determination to bring back The Light to this dark place when he becomes involved in the story of Jade, a beautiful hooker who shows him the redeeming power of love.
Gabriel's quest brings him to the final showdown with the ruler of Purgatory, Sammael, but will his love for Jade break his convictions?
Gabriel is an exploration of the depths of human emotion. It shows the human condition as frail and strong, as corruptible and honorable but always undeniably powerful and precious.
SYNOPSIS:
Gabriel first recalls his feelings of falling from Grace to enter Purgatory and how his mind is concentrated on the others, his fellow Six Arc Angels who have gone before him – Ramiel, Amitiel, Raphael, Uriel, Ithuriel and Michael. Immediately he assumes human form on the outskirts of Purgatory, where to the opening titles, he screams as he becomes aware of his mortality and sensations of being human.
Wandering into the city he comes across the many inhabitants of Purgatory, a seedy city, living often as homeless or as criminals. At Michael's previous residence, he finds a note from Michael telling him that all the previous Arcs have failed, and that he is to learn from them but not follow them in their path. Along with the note he finds a small cache of weapons, handguns to assist him.
In the moments of his arrival, his presence has been noted by the Fallen. Sammael has become aware of the Arcs, and has recently killed off one of his own men who has disobeyed him. Sammael feels that he is free to do as he wishes here in Purgatory and that it is his emotions that drive him. He calls upon Molloch to dispatch Gabriel, but Gabriel kills him instead. Gabriel follows another presence out of town and comes across Uriel, who has succumbed to fear and basically had a nervous breakdown, not wanting to confront the Fallen by taking to alcohol and living alone.
With Uriel's help Gabriel learns that Amitiel lost her wings and now lives as a hooker called Jade. Uriel also teaches Gabriel to mask his angelic presence and reminds him about his human body. Gabriel is however not daunted by this and goes off looking for Jade. In a brothel known as the Fun House, he comes across Asmodeus the pimp and owner of Jade. During this time that Jade is also being visited by Balen, another Fallen who takes sadistic pleasure in beating Jade. Gabriel finds Jade and kills Balan and his henchman. He nurses Jade back to health, using his powers to drain her of the heroin-like drugs she uses in order to survive her existence as a prostitute. She confronts Gabriel about this, but later talks to him, taking him to the soup kitchen where Ithuriel works. It is here that Ithuriel has hidden his presence but still wanting to help works as a soup kitchen cook. He is also looking after the original leader, Raphael, the general of their army who has been shot and is dying. Gabriel heals Raphael with his power, but Raphael warns him that by doing that he's sapping his strength, which is also slowly removing his link to the Light itself. His use of powers has alerted the Fallen to the others presence, and soon Asmodeus, Lilith and Sammael kill Ithuriel, Uriel and Raphael. Stricken with rage, becoming aware of the death of the others after he has recently killed Arahim (the Fallen who makes the drugs) he goes shooting through the Fun House killing all Asmodeus's henchmen, before finally killing Asmodeus himself. It is during this moment that his eyes glow red instead of their angelic blue, showing his separation from the love he showed as an Angel. However, upon seeing one of Asmodeus's hookers who was surgically enhanced to resemble Asmodeus, he uses his power once more to restore her to her original beauty, and his eyes glow blue again.
With his rage subsiding and his guilt rising, Gabriel comes to Jade, who comforts him, and in their love, they make love, while Sammael, learning of the other Fallen deaths, screams. Finally Gabriel goes to confront Sammael. Finding drugs, he overdoses Lilith before finally confronts Sammael on the rooftop. It is here however that he realises the truth, Sammael is dead, killed long ago, but has been replaced by Michael himself. Michael felt he was a pawn under God, that God was a tyrant and so freed himself by becoming the leader of the Fallen. He now asks Gabriel to join him. Gabriel aknowledges who Michael is but still wants to fight him. Sammael however has maintained all his strength, while Gabriel has used up all of his. Sammael fights him, finally impaling Gabriel on a metal pipe. But Michael and Gabriel love each other, and so Gabriel embraces him, asking Michael to confront the dawn. Both are injured by Gabriel impaling Michael also on the metal rod, causing both to collapse, but Michael in an act of love and redemption, heals Gabriel with all his strength and dies. Gabriel confronts all the emotions he has felt and says that he wants to learn about how this happened. He decides to fall, and so he does, falling onto Grace. It is assumed that he has won by martyring his own feelings that could drive him to do what Michael did, and the light returns.
CRITICAL REVIEW:
Gabriel received mixed reviews upon its release. It's visual style and technical achievements on the very low budget on which was financed on, were praised. “The action sequences are quite interesting, using a variety of styles” (www.media-culture.org) “Gothic action-thriller Gabriel defies its miniscule budget to deliver an audacious audiovisual experience” (Harvey, Shannon, www.news.com.au/perthnow).
“It is the genuinely inspirational tale of a young artist determined to bring his vision to the masses, despite having precious little money, resources or industry connections with which to get the job done” (www.news.com.au/heraldsun)
However it's stilted dialogue and unorginal storyline were criticised. 
“Made on a wing and a prayer by debuting helmer Shane Abbess, this derivative, low-budget HD effort will be hellish for anyone outside its targeted youth audience” (www.variety.com)
“Sluggish yarn progresses like a computer game running low on battery power, and lurches from setpiece to setpiece without achieving any narrative momentum” (www.variety.com)
“... [Abbess] deserves a kick in the pants for blowing his huge chance with one of the biggest piles of tripe to be flung at the screen this year” (www.news.com/heraldsun)
“In the film business after all talk is cheap... the result is sporadic action followed by reams of religious mumbo-jumbo that is sure to confuse veiwers” (www.news.com.au/perthnow)
Australian film critic Margaret Pomeranz enjoyed the film, stating that while “there's nothing amazingly deep about it” it has “an amazingly interesting look and sound”. In contrast, David Stratton, Pomeranz's co-presenter at At the Movies (ABC) described the film as “tedious” deriding it's dialogue, “derivative” story and uninteresting characters.
Sydney Morning Herald reviwer Richard Jinman agreed, stating “cliched aesthetic... is a turn off, as is the rather stilted dialogue.... [Gabriel is] hamstrung by a lack of visceral thrills, engaging characters and a storyline that can command attention for almost two hours”.
While some reviewers enjoyed the film being similar in style to that of Matrix, Day and Night Watch or Blade Runner, others found it derivative and boring, compared to their own tastes.
PRODUCTION CIRCUMSTANCES:
According to Abbess, finding funding for the film was “impossibly hard” (Kolan, Patrick, Gabiel: An AU Interview with Shane Abbess). Most of the money came out of the filmmaker's own pockets. Shane Abbess worked as a laborer, a removalist, at a call centre, and as a truck driver at the docks in order to raise money to produce Gabriel (Fennel, Marc. Interview – Shane Abbess talks Gabriel. Triple J).
Preconceptions about what is an “Australian film” contributed to the difficulty in the funding. Producer Kristy Vernon states that “many Australian movies have been either driven by artistic or personal motivations, or have focused on cultural imperatives leading to 'uncommercial' movies being produced. These types of movies are unlikely to give off a reasonable return to their investors.  The consequence of this is that the Australian finance and investment sectors have been reluctant to support the funding of the movie industry” (Gabriel Production Notes PDF).
Abbess original idea of the film was his fondness for the name “Gabriel” (Clint, Morris. An Interview with Shane Abbess and Andy Whitfield. Moviehole.) He and co-writer Matt Hylton Todd  researched angels and demons in various religions, drawing characters from Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism as well as John Milton's Paradise Lost. The writers chose seven angels and seven demons to basically have “an all-star supernatural battle” (Kolan, Patrick. Gabriel: An AU interview with Shane Abbess. IGN).
Production designer Victor Lam drew storyboards for Gabriel and oversaw every design aspect of the film “making sure that it sits with Shane's direction and making sure that colour-wise, tonally it fits as well” (Kolan, Patrick. Exclusive: Gabriel concept art and AU interview. IGN).
The art department collected props “from the local tip and thrift stores” (Howarth, Brad. Dark Angel RTF). Costumes were “bought second hand from St Vincent de Paul” (Hell and High Water for those making Gabriel. Herald Sun). In addition, they saved money on set building by using abandoned industrial locations and condemned buildings soon to be demolished as sets, with the added bonus that it added a layer of realism (Kornitz, Div; Duff, Brian. Strange Days. Filmink).
The film was shot on location in Sydney over a period of eight weeks in late 2005, plus one week of pick-ups in March 2006 (Howarth, Brad. Dark Angel). Many of the production crew had previous experience. The lighting co-ordinators had worked on Superman Returns and the Matrix, while stunt co-ordinator Kyle Rowling had worked on Star Wars Episode II and III. In order to obtain more international coverage, instead of the actors using full-blown American accents, they were told to “use neutral accents” (Fennel, Marc. Interview – Shane Abbess talks “Gabriel”. Triple J).
The film was shot on JVC GY-HD101E digital video camera. Abbess not only wanted to use it because of its versalitily, lightness and ability to shoot in the dark but because of its cheapness: “Ten years ago, we couldn't have made this movie, because we would have had to shoot on film” (Kornitz, Div; Duff, Brian. Strange Days. Filmink). The use of deferred payment caused some friction on set, as some extras expected to be paid right away or they 'would fucking kill [Abbess]'. There were also problems involving water scenes, in which being unable to afford rain towers, they used hoses and unheated water which caused Andy Whitfield to become hypothermic, his body temperature falling to 32.5 degrees Celsius (Gabriel director risks life and limb. Ninemsn).
The first cut of Gabriel was a “self indulgent three hours long”. This rough cut was screened in Hollywood studios, but Abbess was later told to cut it to under two hours because “old the whole MTV generation audience these days” (Gabriel Panel Shane Abbess and Andy Whitfield. Supernova). 
PRIOR WORK:
Andy Whitfield (Gabriel), born in the UK moved to Australia nine years ago, has had a number of roles on short films and has a guest-starring role on Australian TV series All Saints. His extensive acting training over 6 years has included On Camera Connections, 2 years with John Noble and regularly performing at St Marks Parlour in Sydney, and Screenwise, headed by Denise Roberts. Gabriel is however his first debut feature film.
Dwaine Stevenson (Sammael/Michael), born in Australia began attempting acting while in his 14 years service in the Army. After leaving the army in 1999, he began pursuing acting seriously in 2002. He attended the Actors Centre completing their one-year course to test the waters. Half the way through he won a part in the play Nothing Men at Newtown Theatre. Since the start, Dwaine has worked on many short films with Redline Films and Director Shane Abbess including Dinner for One, Sunday Drivers and Real Eyes, as well as starring in features films such as The Orbit, for director Alex Wisser.
Samantha Noble (Amitiel/Jade) was born in Adelaide, South Australia and moved to Sydney, her current residence, with her family in 1992. In 1997 she began her acting career by playing Jodie in Home and Away, followed up by a small role in All Saints. In 2000, she was fortunate enough to spend some time in New Zealand where she made an appearance in Lord of the Rings. Since then she has continued to have guest-starring roles in All Saints and Home and Away.
Director Shane Abbess made his first short film when he was 14 with his parents Betamax camera, usually making short films, and skate videos with his friends. After graduating high school in the 90s, Shane was immediately accepted as one of the youngest students ever at the North Sydney TAFE film course, which ran for a year. After graduating from the course, Shane went to work at Channel 10, where he knew he'd have after hours access to equipment so he could further his skills making short films and music video clips. Following that, he spent 5 years working odd jobs and selling personal belongings to pay for equipment and locations for his film projects. It was during this time that Shane formed Redline Films with actor/writer Matt Hylton Todd. After 40 short films, music video clips and television commercials, they were well known and were ready to tackle their first feature film, which was Gabriel.
FINAL COMMENTS:
Gabriel has been marketed as a supernatural action film. However it hasn't been regarded as Australian, as there are no notable Australian locations or landmarks, or even the use of Australian accents. However, I believe personally that the main Australian theme of 'Mateship' is one that holds true in this film.
The hero Gabriel shows a love and connection towards others, using his powers for others instead of his own purposes, healing others and never really healing himself. The Fallen and other Arcs have used their powers either to help only themselves, or in the case of the Fallen, to gain control of Purgatory for their own selfish reasons. This sense of selfishness that Sammael/Michael has in wanting to free himself from the power of The Light is what causes him to become the very Demon he was sent to Vanquish. However it is ultimately thinking about others, as he does about Gabriel, that allows Michael to redeem himself. It is also this act of sacrifice that Gabriel performs,, so that no other angels can again take the throne of Purgatory, that allows the light to finally shine through at last. In a sense, what is seen as the Australian value of mateship is made not only global through the use of non-Australian accents, but universal, if not cosmic, portraying mateship as one of the many elements of love that God provides.