Constantine (2005)

Cigarettes are the devil.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift that gave him the ability to recognise the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage. It’s not something he wanted, but it was the hand he was dealt, so there’s not much else he can do with it other than drive the demons off of this Earth from hurting humans, and just smoke his life away. He seems pretty content on spending the rest of his days like this, that is all until police detective Angela Dodson’s (Rachel Weisz) twin-sister jumps off of a balcony, plummeting to her death. However, right before she decided to go sidewalk-diving, she apparently turned to the security-camera watching her uttering his name. Dodson knows that there’s something more powerful going on here than just a sudden burst of suicidal thoughts, so she decides to ring Constantine up, despite his best wishes to, once again, be left alone to smoke and fight evil for the rest of his days. But now, Constantine realizes there may be a way to save Dodson’s sister’s life, even if that does mean putting himself clearly in harms way.

A lot of people have made a stink about this movie and the choice in which Keanu Reeves was to play the titular character of the famous comics, John Constantine. While I have never read the comics, meaning I don’t have much of an opinion as if he perfectly solidifies this character or not, it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor. That’s the reality of it, but we should all just get by that right now and move on. Shall we?

Hey, at least she didn't leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.
Hey, at least she didn’t leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Anyway, what this movie does do well is that it sets its story up with a unique tone. Seeing this movie and material from afar, some would probably bet this to be an overly-serious, religious-themed thriller that’s all about demons, gods, angels and all sorts of other biblical references to where you feel like you’re back in Sunday School, but the movie has a little bit of fun with itself, right before it dives right into that cheesiness. Constantine’s played-up more as an anti-hero that always has something nifty to say, has his pack of smokes handy and basically knows what it is that he has to do next, at any given time. The movie sets us up with this cool-as-molasses character right away, gives us a tone that’s at times goofy, but darkly so, and has us feel like if the rest of the movie continues on like this, we may just have ourselves a clear-defined winner of religious-themed, action-thrillers, among the other religious-themed, action-thrillers (of which there are many, I think).

However, about half-way through, once the real bulk of this story gets introduced to us, things begin to slowly go downhill. For starters, the movie is over two-hours long, which already gives you the impression that no matter what it is that this flick does with its story, it must do it quick and easy, just so it doesn’t feel like a three-hour epic along the likes of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (and yes, I know those two are way, WAY longer than just “two-hours”). But needless to say, despite him having a clear-eye for what it is that he wants to tell us about this story and this main character, director Francis Lawrence still can’t seem to get himself away from all of the constant-exposition that usually brings these types of movies to a screeching-halt.

With a story of this matter, it’s not like you don’t need to know the ins, the outs and whereabouts of when Satan was born, how, where and why he matters now, it’s just that there is a more efficient way to tell that, among many other parts of the story, without having it seem like a total snooze-fest that’s so repetitive, you don’t even care if it makes sense or not. Instead, you just want to see this Constantine guy put his feet into water, grab a cat, start meditating and all of a sudden, be thrown into this dark after-world, where all he does is battle demons. Yes, that scene does happen and it’s pretty cool, but it’s in the middle of non-stop dialogue-heavy scenes where people just use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that can easily get passed off as “religious”.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, I say!

As we all know though, once the middle-half of a movie goes by and we feel as if we’ve been more-than introduced to this story and the characters that inhabit it, then things begin to get fun, and that’s the truth with this flick. While it does get really goofy and cheesy by the end with all of the CGI, the movie still kept me entertained and feeling as if I was just watching a piece of science-fiction, rather than something that was supposed to have a deeper-meaning because it used biblical-figures like Gabriel or Lucifer himself (perfectly given the nickname of “Lou”; whatta cool guy). Some may be enraged by me saying something like that, but it helped me get through the movie a lot easier. So crucify me if you must, but I was just trying to make the pill go down easier.

"Did I hear somebody talking about 'a machinehead'?"
“Did I hear somebody talking about ‘a machinehead’?”

And yes, I did use a “pill joke” there because Keanu stars in this and yes, he is like I said before: Stiff, tired and dull, but he’s still fun to watch. He makes Constantine the type of witty bad-ass a movie of this nature needs to move along and survive by, and without him, I don’t really know who else I could see doing it. Maybe if I read the comics I would know, but for right now, it seems like Neo was a pretty solid choice in the first place. Rachel Weisz, despite her credible acting-abilities, is sort of left without much to do other than work-off of the blank piece-of-paper that is Keanu Reeves’ screen-presence, but she makes it interesting enough, to say the least. Still though, this would be released in the same year that she won her Oscar, so I guess all was forgiven after awhile.

As okay as these two are in the lead roles, they’re sort of given the standard-roles where all they have to do is all act all plain and simple, amongst all of their crazy, bat-shit surroundings, which doesn’t just limit itself to the atmosphere and the story, but the fun and energetic supporting cast as well. Shia LaBeouf gets his first, real taste in mainstream cinema as Constantine’s lacky and shows that he has the ability to be charming and a bit annoying at the same time, but rightfully so; Djimon Hounsou plays a strange, voodoo-like conjurer called Papa Midnite, who doesn’t take sides between the angels and the demons, yet, sees himself leaning more towards the demons, just because the plot needs him to do so; Gavin Rossdale is charming as the cunning Balthazar, showing us that in the year 2005, he was still staying relevant by doing this and Gwen Stefani at the same time (bastard); Tilda Swinton shows up early on as the angel Gabriel, and isn’t heard from in quite awhile, until she shows up later and does what she does best; and Peter Stormare plays the infamous Lou, giving him all the likable, but evil charm we’d expect to see when Peter Stormare is playing the man also known as Satan himself. If that isn’t what the devil’s really like, then I have no clue what a better personification truly is!

Consensus: Juggles itself around with being overtly-serious at certain times, and campy-but-fun at others, but at the end of the day, Constantine is just a fun, cool-looking and feeling religious-themed action-thriller that somehow benefits from the deadly-charm of Keanu Reeves and the rest of his able cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!


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  1. Nice review dude, but I’d have to differ with ya on Keanu Reeves not being a good actor (I think that’s what u implied. . .if not, then my apologies). I think he’s a strange guy, but he makes movies infinitely more interesting because of it. I don’t really include the Matrix in this, either, because that entire concept was sci-fi and bizarre to begin with. (I love it, but it’s strange, and he doesn’t “stand out” because Lawrence Fishburne is right beside him, doing something equally weird). In things like Point Break, Speed and Devil’s Advocate (and this) he just feels. . . .right. I love him. that’s just me.

      • Street Kings has a kickass cast of characters in it. Forest Whitaker, and Hugh Laurie among them :]

      • I don’t think he’s “bad” per se, I just think he’s a very wooden kind of actor. That doesn’t matter though, because it fits him and the movies he’s in.

      • I agree. I remember watching a movie that he was supposed to cry in a certain scene and he couldn’t do it. I just told myself that he’s too badass to cry :]

  2. ” … it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor.”
    This is a great point and I completely agree. I’ve always enjoyed watching him in any film, even though I know his talents are limited. Only a certain type of star can carry a film like The Matrix or Speed – your Tom Cruises, Brad Pitts, Will Smiths of this world, and Reeves has always seemed part of that bracket. Obviously Brad Pitt – for example – is a better actor…when he dips into an indie or some other quirky film that needs a solid acting performance he nearly always delivers…but Reeves on the other hand…!!!
    (Haven’t seen this, have always meant to give it a try, but enjoyed the review anyway.)

  3. Nicely delivered Dan. I actually found plenty to enjoy from this despite an abundance of bad critiques. It was nowhere near as poor as many made out. One thing it definitely had on it side was a lot of style.

  4. Dpn’t have much to say about the actor. I don’t think he’s good (his turn in Thumbsucker except), but he gives what you expect him to, so that’s all fine, I guess.

    All in all, I agreed this has moments of fun. Though at times, I think, it’s stupidity takes over and reduces the flick’s value. Not terrible, though.

  5. I know there’s a lot of Keanu Reeves haters out there but I think he does great for some parts that need that stiff weirdness. The visuals in this film are magnificent but I agree with you, the story is lost and bogged down in a bunch of muddy exposition. I own a lot of horror movies on dvd and bluray but never seeked this out after seeing it the 1st time.

  6. Good review, Dan. I had fun with this and, like you, wasn’t familiar with the comics when it came out. I think Reeves plays these types of characters well. Not a lot of range needed, just the same 2-4 looks, phrases and hand gestures throughout 🙂 Even when he sacrifices himself and is raised up he’s flipping the bird!

  7. I was always interested in this because I’m actually a fairly big Keanu fan. I guess I just consistently like what he’s in, A Scanner Darkly or The Matrix, that I can forgive his shoddy acting. Terrific review Dan!

  8. haha it’s good you give Keanu some credit – people usually hate on him so much and I think it’s uncalled for when he also has amazing roles like in The Matrix (and when there is one-facial-expression Nicholas Cage :D) Plus, the door of my childhood room is still in posters of him 😀 I am really looking forward to 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi 🙂 Nice review

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