Judge Gordon Sullivan is still undead tonight.
Our review of Gabriel (2007), published February 25th, 2008, is also available.
The figure of the vampire just seems ripe for long-form television. It's probably the immortality, but from Dark Shadows to Angel, vamps have made excellent subjects for on-going series. We can add Gabriel to the list of dramatic television tales of the undead. Combining the highlights of several successful franchises into a single show with a heartthrob lead, Gabriel offers fans of Spanish frights a romantic tale of love and loss.
Gabriel (singing sensation Chayenne) is a centuries-old vampire who now longs to be saved. Sadly, that can only happen if he's reunited with his long-lost love Viviane who has been reincarnated as Eva (Angelica Celaya). However, he is opposed by Pizzaro (Jose Luis Rodriguez), who was cursed by Eva's Incan-priestess ancestors and seeks his revenge by wiping out each new incarnation of Gabriel's eternal love.
Gabriel is essentially a hyped-up soap opera, complete with unrequited loves, shadowy figures, and borderline stalking. Add all those usual trappings up with a vampire story and you've got a recipe for over-the-top television. The show basically takes the big tropes from the most recent vampire tales and throws them all in a blender with the usual romantic trappings. We've got the reincarnated love plot from Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the more broody, salvation-oriented aspects are definitely taking a few moves from the Angel and Twilight playbooks.
What this means is that Gabriel is built around a pretty solid core: vampire-longing-for-salvation seeks reincarnated love despite the treachery of the villain. The make-or-break for most people will be the level of histrionics. For instance, Gabriel opens in a church, where we get to watch the dark-and-brooding Chayanne beg the local priest to "save me, father." Of course Gabriel's reincarnated love works as a nurse (because she has to be around blood, naturally), and her co-worker is a stereotypical busty nurse who's always angling for the affections of a doctor.
I'm all for a little romance, but for me, Gabriel took the whole broody bit a little too far. All the sound and fury seems to hide a pretty hollow center. I just didn't buy into the whole reincarnated love bit. It can work (see The Fountain for an example), but the vampire mythology and cursing business kept me from getting invested in the love story, and vice versa.
On the plus side, I was certainly impressed with the production level of this series. I'm used to flipping past the local Spanish-language station and seeing the same flat, soap-opera lighting on every show. Gabriel actually has some interesting cinematography, and the "look" of the show certainly helps cement the atmosphere of longing, salvation, and damnation the show is trying to achieve. This is not a set-bound show, and there are numerous moving camera shots and bits of location footage that really add to the show's overall appeal.
I was also impressed by the acting. Although the actors aren't given award-winning material, they all turn in performances that manage to be both sincere and true to the more melodramatic aspects of the show. Singers-turned-actors are often a hit-or-miss bunch, but Chayanne does a fine job with the romantic Gabriel. Through the years he's definitely learned how to harness the power of his eyes to sell his romantic songs, and that's very much in evidence here. Angelica Celaya is equally effective as his love interest. She exudes both innocence and independence as the romantic interest.
Echo Bridge has done a fine job releasing Gabriel on DVD. Spread out over three discs, each episode has plenty of room to look good. Blacks are well rendered during the consistent night scenes, and the Spanish-language track does a fine job with the audio, providing a nice balance between dialogue and the atmospheric effects. The English subtitles are easy to follow. Extras include a generic making-of, a set of bloopers, and a set of music videos featuring the lead actor performing "Amor Inmortal" and "DueFIXno de Todo."
Gabriel doesn't really bring anything new to the Vamp-TV field, but serves up its particular brand of doomed romance with visual panache and decent acting. Fans of Chayanne will surely enjoy his presence here, and the presentation and extras make this an easy on to recommend to those who follow his work. Generic vamp fans might want to rent the first disc of this set to see if "amor inmortal" is really their style.
Gabriel's not great, but it's also not guilty.
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Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
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