|Genre(s): Drama / Fantasy / Thriller|
|Warner Brothers || R - 121 minutes || February 18, 2005|
|Reviewer: Kushmeer Farakhan || Posted On: 2005-02-24|
Writer(s): Jamie Delano & Garth Ennis (comic book "Hellblazer"), Kevin Brodbin (screenplay) and Frank A. Capello (screenplay)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeauf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker, Peter Stormare
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When a friend and I went to our local movie theatre today to view Constantine, I couldn't help but be a little excited. Constantine was an big deal in the same way that Marvel's Blade was a big deal. It represents the first new shot being fired by DC comics in their attempt to dethrone Marvel Comics at the box office. Some might say Catwoman was their first attempt to regain their crown they so firmly held with the Superman and Batman films but I prefer to think of that one as the last vestiges of the old regime that brought the terrors of Superman IV and Batman and Robin to us. Constantine is the REAL deal and you know WB/DC mean business as after the WB sign comes up, we see a big giant Vertigo/DC comics logo too and the nerdbumps a jiggle from there.
Constantine is based on the DC/Vertigo comic book "Hellblazer" (which stars a character named John Constantine) played here by Keanu Reeves. I know little of the book as I've not read it but I do know that in the books Constantine is British and here he is not and I know that has many fans in a tizzy but for me,as i'm not a fan myself this time around, I cared little. The story follows Constantine as he tries to help solve the mystery surrounding the death of Detective Angela Dobson's (Rachel Weisz) twin sister, Isabel. Constantine is some kind of mystical crimefighter/detective who keeps the various agents of heavan and hell in line and creating balance between the two...or something like that. Constantine is also dying of lung cancer (which is no shock as Reeves is seen lighting up every 5 minutes here) and is trying to get redemption for his various sins in order to get into heavan. Constantine is assissted by cabbie sidekick, Chas (the ever annoying Shia Labouf), otherworldy bar owner, Papa Midnight (Djimoun Hounsou effectively playing the only other character besides Constantine here that i've actually heard of). Constantine's enemies include Balthazar (Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale) and Satan himself (Peter Stormore, in a scene chewing but still good performance). Finally, there's Gabriel (Tilda Swinton with wings) who helps (hurts?) Constantine throughout his journey.
Did you follow that? The filmakers certainly hope you can as the film is almost overflowing with interdimentional quasi-religous stuff like this and yeah, it is a little much at times.
Reeves is good enough in the role as he's basically required to just play Neo from the Matrix again, only this time, he already has all the answers as opposed to Neo who was learning as he went along. Weisz is pretty good but she's almost too good here, oftimes feeling like she's in a different, better movie than what we're seeing. Stormore, Swinton, and Hounsou also do good (if unremarkable) work. Labouf sucks. I just can't stand him.
F/X and direction wise, Constantine is a marvel to behold. I found the scenes set in Hell to be the best translation of it ever put to film celluloid and the most realistic looking version too (well..not that I've ever seen Hell myself but you get the picture). The film also had a lot of decent action sequences (mostly towards the end) and cool Makeup (I really liked the Balthazar makeup). Direction was impressive from former music video czar, Francis Lawrence. Look no further than the scene where Isable Dobson committs suicide. Just great.
Overall though, Constantine is a very mixed bag. It's at times too heady and slow and the pacing drags and at other times, it's a thoughtful and somewhat exciting action romp with decent (but not great) acting. It ain't Shakespeare but compared to more recent comic films (Blade: Trinity, Elektra and the aforemetioned Catwoman), it's definitely a step in the right direction for the genre. Here's hoping Batman Begins and (god willing) Fantastic Four bring things back up to Spider-Man and X-Men standards.