Movie Reviews

Constantine

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 8 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Constantine
Rachel Weisz as Angela Dodson/Isabel Dodson
Shia LaBeouf as Chas Chandler
Djimon Hounsou as Midnite
Max Baker as Beeman
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Father Hennessy
Gavin McGregor Rossdale as Balthazar
Tilda Swinton as Gabriel
Peter Stormare as Satan
Jesse Ramirez as Scavenger
JosÚ Z˙˝iga as Detective Weiss
Francis Guinan as Father Garret
Larry Cedar as Vermin Man
April Grace as Dr. Leslie Archer

Summary:
"Constantine" is a cool, dark, supernatural adventure. Keanu Reeves and a great supporting cast deliver fine performances. If you liked Blade, Hellboy, The Exorcist, or The Matrix, you'll find "Constantine" worth checking out.

Story:
The following is the official plot synopsis for the film:

"John Constantine has been to hell and back.

Born with a gift he didn't want, the ability to recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage, Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was driven to take his own life to escape the tormenting clarity of his vision. But he failed. Resuscitated against his will, he found himself cast back into the land of the living. Now, marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life, he patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell, hoping in vain to earn his way to salvation by waging war on the earthbound minions of evil.

But Constantine is no saint. Increasingly disillusioned by the world around him and at odds with the one beyond, he's a hard-drinking, hard-living bitter hero who scorns the very idea of heroism. Constantine will fight to save your soul but he doesn't want your admiration or your thanks ľ and certainly not your sympathy. All he wants is a way out.

When a desperate but skeptical police detective (Rachel Weisz as Angela Dodson) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.

"Constantine" is based on characters from the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer Graphic Novels."

Constantine is rated R for violence and demonic images.

What Worked:
I should start out by saying that despite being a comic fan for 20+ years, I've never read the Hellblazer series. I really can't compare the film to the comic at all other than to say that Constantine isn't British in the movie. I can say that I was able to walk into this story with no background knowledge at all and instantly be hooked by the plot. "Constantine" is dark, edgy, action packed, funny, scary, creepy, imaginative, and just plain cool.

If you liked The Exorcist, Blade, Hellboy, or X-Men, then I think you're going to like "Constantine". There are elements of all these movies in this film. I also had a similar feeling watching this movie as I did The Matrix. "Constantine" doesn't have robots or kung-fu, but it does have Keanu Reevens and it instantly immerses you in a whole new world where anything is possible. As you watch it, you never know what's going to happen next. It's just very much off the wall and you feel like you're exploring a new world. And like The Matrix, "Constantine" is going to appeal to disenfranchised youth who question authority, religion, and reality. But the cool thing is that rather than wallowing in darkness, antipathy, and frustration, our hero makes a real journey that changes his life and what he believes. In short, there's hope at the end despite all the darkness.

I've never really thought of Keanu Reeves as a great actor, but I've generally enjoyed the films he has taken part in. I have to say that his role as John Constantine is probably one of his best performances. The character is dark, tough, rude, and generally has a bad attitude. He's the perfect example of an anti-hero. Reeves plays the character perfectly and looks cool the whole time doing so. And somehow he he can perform an exorcism, travel into hell, and generally conduct all these bizarre supernatural activities while still making you buy it all. Constantine also has a wicked sense of humor that helps break the tension in the film and adds some much needed laughter to the otherwise intense story.

Reeves is supported by a fantastic cast. Rachel Weisz is great as Angela Dodson and her twin Isabel. Weisz makes you believe that she can be a cop, a psychic, a mental patient, or a guilt-ridden sister all in the same performance. She has pretty good chemistry with Reeves. A possible romance between their characters is hinted at here and there and it's just enough to tease the audience without ever compromising the film. Shia LaBeouf is fun as the sidekick Chas Chandler. He's enthusiastic, cocky, and funny. He could have easily have been the most annoying character in the film, but LaBeouf pulled it off. Djimon Hounsou is also dark and brooding as Midnite. It's quite easy to believe that he could be a voodoo witch doctor. Rock star Gavin McGregor Rossdale is OK as Balthazar. His is definitely a creepy cameo. Tilda Swinton is also fantastic as Gabriel, an angel on earth. Finally, Peter Stormare delivers one of the most unique performances as Satan that I have ever seen. He steals the show for the brief amount of time that he's on screen.

The special effects in the film are generally first rate. The demons are unique and quite striking. One in particular is made up of roaches, flies, crabs, and snakes. It's unlike anything I've seen before and pretty scary. There are other demons in the film that look like they crawled off some heavy metal albums from the 80's. They have half their skulls cut off and they will definitely turn your stomach. The shots of hell are impressive though they look like they were borrowed from T2. There are other cool shots throughout the film that I won't spoil here.

"Constantine" marks the directorial debut of Francis Lawrence and I have to say that I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. This movie is beautifully shot with all sorts of haunting imagery. Lawrence is able to find beauty in any scene he shoots whether it's a bare hospital room or the inner workings of a bowling alley. The sets he films on are stunning. No matter where the camera points it seems that there's a rich back-story behind every single prop.

I think that DC and Warner Brothers finally getting their comic book movies back on track is a certain sign of the apocalypse. (In fact, the credits start out with the "Vertigo" logo, a sign that DC wants name recognition in their movies just like Marvel.) The fact that Constantine is so much fun to watch certainly bodes well for the upcoming Batman and Superman films.

What Didn't Work:
First and foremost, "Constantine" is pretty sacrilegious at times. If you're a Christian, you may find yourself uncomfortable with some of the religious ideas presented in the film. The ultimate message of redemption and the fact that there's more going on in the world than you can see with your eyes are beautifully presented, but there are a few missteps along the way that kind of ruin it. For example, they reveal a Bible from hell that has a few more chapters than humans knew about. There's an angel that talks about God's forgiveness then drops the f-bomb. Then there is all sorts of talk about what happens to people who commit suicide in the afterlife. I certainly wouldn't recommend people forming their views of Christianity based on this movie.

The movie can also slow to a crawl at times. I had absolutely no problem with it because I was so absorbed in the film and the dialogue was great. But I can certainly see some people with short attention spans getting bored between the big action moments.

The Bottom Line:
"Constantine" is a cool, dark, supernatural adventure. Keanu Reeves and a great supporting cast deliver fine performances. If you liked Blade, Hellboy, The Exorcist, or The Matrix, you'll find "Constantine" worth checking out.

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