C-
Constantine

Keanu Reeves is “the one” the world needs to go back and forth between our reality and the unseen world governed by the machine that controls us all.  He’s aided by a sexy brunette and a cryptic African American through an awesome display of computer animation.  Sound familiar?

John Constantine (Keanu “Woah” Reeves) is a special kind of exorcist.  Plagued by the ability to see demonic influence on Earth, he once tried to take his own life.  But silly doctors brought him back from two minutes of Catholic Hell and he must prove his worth if he doesn’t want to return.  However, cigarette-induced lung disease has him headed toward death sooner than he’d like and he’s still been unable to make up for his suicide.  When the mysterious death of a policewoman’s twin (Rachel Weisz and Rachel Weisz) reveals the plot to bring the son of Satan to our world… hilarity ensues.

This movie is about an hour and forty-five minutes longer than it should have been.  The first fifteen minutes are stunning.  Within the first five minutes there are at least two moments that qualify as brilliant, one of which includes some man-on-car action that puts Meet Joe Black to shame.  And within the next ten, there is an exorcism scene that is a worthy challenger to The Exorcist itself.  But don’t let this trick you into thinking Constantine is anything but another Hellboy, which is to say, bad movie.

The transition from comic book (in this case, Hellblazer) to movie is a tricky one.  Most agree that Tim Burton’s Batman broke new ground and that the X-Men films were reasonably well done, but rarely does a comic book movie escape its intrinsic silliness, which is why it’s best served being told in colorful still frames.  Constantine becomes so complicated and overwritten within the first hour, trying to set up a premise even more convoluted than Catholicism itself, it gets stuck spending the second hour doing little but trying to justify itself.  Newcomer director Francis Lawrence brings some good imagery to the screen.  But even though there is plenty of action and the special effects and the cinematography are consistently impressive, the film is actually quite boring, reduced to a series of additional story elements designed only to fill gaping holes in logic.

Constantine is a nice idea for a character, but as a protagonist, he is neither appealing nor particularly engaging. No doubt Reeves’ special brand of emotionless emoting overshadows his occasional good timing.  Rachel Weisz is strong and beautiful as always, but her character doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Plus Reeves and Weisz have the sexual chemistry of Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix, which is to say, uninspired.  Tilda Swinton makes an interesting ethically challenged angel Gabriel.  Former sweaty person and grunge merchant Gavin Rossdale makes a surprisingly imposing presence as a demon.  And otherwise brilliant actor Peter Stormare makes a rather unimaginative and over-the-top silly cameo as Lucifer toward the end.  One of the film’s greatest annoyances is its unnecessary abundance of characters.  An annoying young assistant, a nerdy demonology expert, a drunk priest and others could easily be compacted into one or two characters and save us all a lot of grief.

As expected, the film is bogged down by a series of sardonic one-liners from our hero that occasionally trigger amusement but more often lead to audience eye-rolling.  The movie is a greater disappointment than it should be only because it has such a promising opening.  But eventually Constantine reveals itself to be little more than silly Bible horror, painfully making up new rules as it finally devolves into a mess of loopholes and explanations. 

But it may work for some, because apparently people believe in this stuff.  Remind me again why suicide is punishable by eternal damnation in a fiery pit of torment while at the same time God seems to be going out of his way to drive us all crazy?  C-
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