Constantine * * * 1/2

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Director: Francis Lawrence.
Screenplay: Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Michelle Monaghan, Domino Harvey.

DC Comics’ “Hellblazer” gets the big screen treatment with the chain-smoking, existentialist detective John Constantine and although it may not appeal to some fans, there’s no denying it has style.

Keanu Reeves plays the paranormal man in question, who after having visions of entities all his life, attempts suicide. Having been revived from his unsuccessful attempts, John Constantine is then doomed to an eternal waking life of demonic confrontations. This being the case, he attempts to make a deal with God, (in the knowledge that he has lung cancer) that if he can help in the eradication of demons from Earth, he may get a reprieve and be able to enter Heaven when he dies.

“Constantine” has a very imaginative and stylish look to it, mainly down to music video director Francis Lawrence. He uses several unusual camera angles and great use of atmosphere, showing exactly where he learned his craft. However, some inexperience is visible, the tell-tale signs being style over substance. It just so happens though, that the style is magnificent and has some similarities with the low budget Christopher Walken gothic/horror flick “The Prophecy”. Lawrence’s take on the biblical characters are very creative, from Tilda Swinton’s androgenous “Angel Gabriel” to Djimon Hounsou’s “Midnite” a guardian between Heaven & Hell and Peter Stormare’s looming, well-dressed “Lucifer”. Mixed up in all of this is a very mixed bag in Reeves as “Constantine”. He’s strangely brooding and appealing, yet also woefully bad in his selfconscious overacting. It’s a very frustrating performance and a constant reminder that your watching a film, which ultimately isn’t a good thing. The inclusion of Shia LeBeouf’s comic sidekick “Chas” isn’t a good thing either and seriously jars with the tone of the film. Really, we should be able to immersive ourselves in Lawrence’s wonderfully atmospheric (under)world but get held back from full immersion to these visual treats by a lead performance that’s not much better than Schwarzenegger would have delivered and a new director that is still finding his feet.

Comic fans may not be happy, but it’s still very hard to resist it’s visual splendor.

Mark Walker

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9 Responses to “Constantine * * * 1/2”

  1. I really liked this too but I think that’s because of Swinton. It’s surprising hoe Keanu has had so many “famous” roles because he has the worst delivery of anyone and yet he always shows up in something big… it’s a puzzle…

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    • I love Swinton too and I loved most of the characters here. It had a lot of style. As for Reeves, I just don’t know what’s going on with that guy. His acting is dire most times bit yet he still has an appeal. He’s a real enigma. I loved his performance in “The Gift” though. He can certainly play an abusive redneck. I think Reeves’ talents lie in playing bad guys but he just doesn’t do it often enough.

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  2. Maybe it IS the direction that elevates this film from niche horror to provocative mashup of the supernatural amid the earthbound. The material AND the players seem to help this for me. There’s a strong female lead in Rachel Weisz; there’s a gadget guy; there’s a cool albeit helpful sideliner in Papa Midnight; an all too affected former priest; power hungry half-breeds; and those who deem to keep the balance. The sidekick here IS kind of neutral; I’m not sure if that’s casting or what but then I’m not familiar with the source comic Hellblazer.
    KReeves seems to have a nose for good projects [Matrix, Point Break; the Gift- he is good in that you’re right]. The special effects really boost this film to decent cinema in its keen visual luster as Mr. Marakai mentions. Nice highlight Mark! 😉

    “I used to pretend that I didn’t – that I didn’t see things.”
    – Angela Dodson (Weisz) , Constantine (2005)

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    • Thanks a lot. I’m just glad that someone else actually liked this. It took a lot of flack when it was released and I think it was a little unfairly. As a fan of the comics, I was all that upset by it. Granted, it hardly sticks to them at all but becomes a decent piece of escapism in if own right.

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  3. I loved this movie, I must say, flaws and all, it worked for me. I could overlook the issues, and I even like Reeves in this one! Can’t fault your score. It looked really pretty, too!

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    • It looked fantastic didn’t it? It’s did have many flaws but I’d say it worked for me too. I reckon it’s been very harshly criticised.

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      • I think that people are a little rough on this one. They are taking it too seriously I rate, and if you just stop with all that crap you actually end up with a massively entertaining flick!

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      • I would have done away with LeBeouf’s character but Reeves was appealing enough and Swinton, Hounsou and Stormare were very stylishly created. Certainly can’t fault the film for its dark style.

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      • Yeah LaBeouf was the one thing that didn’t really gel in here but oh well.

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