Constantine * * * 1/2
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.