Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker
Director: Francis Lawrence
It’s alright for some of you the world is black and white, no God no Devil, just life and death. Well for John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) it is much more complicated than that. From a very young age he could see things too horrible to believe, so horrible in fact that he actually committed suicide and for a full 2 minutes was a resident of Hell. This is when he finally accepts the strange gift or you might say curse that he has.
When we first see Constantine he is stepping out of a taxi in Los Angeles heading towards the site of a possession. A young girl has been possessed and the priest in charge decided to call for Constantine when he failed to exorcise the girl himself. Constantine discovers that it is much more of a challenge than he is used to as the demon is actually trying to use the girl as a gateway into the human realm. This shocks him as that is against the rules set by the powers that be, as the story goes that God and the Devil made a wager for the souls of all humans. The rules basically allow some influence from both sides but never tolerate direct interaction with either demons or angels.
Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) is an eerily efficient detective who seems to always know in which direction to point the trigger and shoot at the bad guys. Her sister apparently commits suicide by jumping off a high building. Afterwards as Angela watches the surveillance tape she discovers that the last words that her sister said were “Constantine”, so she quickly ends up at his doorstep. He senses that there is more to Angela than she realises.
Far from being your average hero, Constantine is a heavy drinker, heavy smoker and an even heavier cynic. He dispatches demons only as a means of possibly buying his way into heaven, so he is initially very reluctant to help Angela out, until a brutal attack on them both convinces him that she could hold the key to the strange happenings going on. Years of heavy smoking have finally left Constantine with very little time to live. Add to this Angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) seemingly standing in his way of getting into heaven and on the flip side Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale) eagerly anticipating his arrival in hell. If Constantine doesn’t sort out the situation soon, this time he’ll be a permanent resident of the hell that he has personally filled up half of.
The movie opens at a very charged pace with a scene that literally makes you jump out of your seat but then it slows down a bit as there is some development of the character of Constantine. It is a wonderful combination of dazzling CGI visuals of hell, demons and real life shots of a very dark and gloomy LA, in short it is a mix of CGI action and film noir. Director Francis Lawrence probably best known for his ‘Cry Me A River’ video for Justin Timberlake manages to pull it off wonderfully, the combination of old fashioned thriller with CGI inspired scenes of Keanu dispatching of demons in several visceral ways is brilliantly done.
Keanu Reeves seems to have matured in this role and his portrayal of this mentally, emotionally and physically dying man is exceptionally good. He manages to evoke empathy for his character so that we the audience have some sense of just what it is that Constantine is experiencing and why it is that he takes on all this turmoil in his life. Not Oscar worthy but satisfyingly convincing. The stellar supporting cast are all good but Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton stand out by giving very compelling performances that easily raise the credibility of the dramatic aspects of the movie.
Despite the many changes from the comic book in which the main character is actually British, this is a very good start to what will hopefully be a franchise. This is the kind of movie that you should be running to the cinema to see – big thrills, beautifully shot with some exceptional sound effects, it is also very dark and moody. As the issue of romance is only slightly touched upon it perhaps has more male appeal, but in this instance works better that way.
So buy your ticket, buy your popcorn and enjoy, I definitely did!