I recently had the pleasure of seeing the Warner
Bros film Constantine,
an adaptation of the graphic novel Hellblazer. In the film we are introduced
to John Constantine [Keanu Reeves], a known expert in paranormal anomalies
and exorcism. Unlike popular beliefs, John Constantine is not a hoax, and
is one of Earth's last chances to sway the son of Satan and avoid a hell
Constantine, Midnite, and Chas
I know, the premise sounds a little strange but it works. The film Constantine
takes a risky look at angels, demons, the devil, faith, and Catholicism,
all with a surprisingly positive effect.
The film begins with the discovery of the Spear of Destiny down in Mexico;
the same spear that took the Son of God's [Jesus] life. Constantine
describes how the Spear was lost some time during World War II, and upon
its finding it is wrapped in a nazi nationalist flag [it has been told that
Hitler also hoped to seek out this spear]. The person, mexican scavenger,
who takes up the spear soon becomes possessed by some evil force [presumably
the son of Satan] and quickly becomes an illegal alien as the person comes
into the states. So, yes, illegal aliens can be a problem for Constantine.
Next we are greeted to John Constantine as he arrives at a scene where a little girl has been possessed by a 'soldier demon.' We learn from this scene that John Constantine is very powerful when it comes to being a soldier of faith, but he has no real superpowers. Constantine uses old prayers, relics, and weapons in his crusade to fight off demons or angel half-breeds who decide to break the rules and play a part in life on Earth. However, this time things are different.
First off, John Constantine has been a heavy smoker all his life due to
the stress of being tormented by demons. This type of chain smoking only
leads to one thing-- lung cancer. John finds out, after coughing up blood,
that he has terminal lung cancer and has anywhere from a few months to a
year to live. Even though John knows that God exists and there is a heaven
and hell, John is not happy about the news; as John already knows that hell
is waiting for him.
When John Constantine was younger he attempted suicide, which is a major no-no for Catholicism. Even though he was brought back to life, he had already committed the sin and was now sentenced to hell. John's only ambition left is to earn his way back into heaven by fighting off demons and half-breeds gone bad in the name of the Lord. However, he has been doing this for some time, and is still sentenced for hell. What the hell can he do in another three months?
Constantine likes to take vacations to hell.
After receiving the news of his illness, Constantine gets a visit from Angela Dodson [Rachel Weisz, who does a wonderful job in this film] who is trying to figure out why her twin sister would kill herself, as she was a very devout catholic who only found love with God. After first having no interest, Constantine soon realizes that there is much more to the story and begins to feel that something 'big' is coming their way. Constantine takes the case to not only help Angela, but to figure out why the presence of demons is growing and why they are after her specifically.
Let me just start by saying that I really enjoyed Constantine and
will own it when it comes to DVD. The film takes one of those 'risky' looks
at Catholicism, faith, the devil, and even God in order to pull off the
coolest film I've seen this year. Francis Lawrence [director of Constantine]
doesn't hold anything back either. While I had expected to hear about symbolic
characters such as the devil, I never figured that the film Constantine
would give us a chance to meet them in person. Actually, during the entire
run of the film we get to meet a lot of religious characters, except mainly
God 'himself.' However, we do get to see Heaven and Hell, both which act
like another dimension to our very own planet.
The next risk that I greatly enjoyed is the hero of the film, John Constantine.
I know that people are always afraid that Keanu Reeves will perform only
flat or dry acting, but his role in this film was perfect. John Constantine
is tormented by the fact that no matter how much he helps God and other
humans, he still has a first class ticket to hell; and Satan is going to
walk him down personally! John Constantine feels like he's been shit on,
and Keanu Reeves plays the part perfect.
Soldier Demons are ugly.
Constantine is not one of those heroes you love, but one you come to understand and, at least, somewhat like. Sure, the guy can be a straight up dick [sometimes confused for being a realist], but he also throws you a few laughs along the way. My favorite aspect to the character is that he tells all demons, and even Satan, to go 'fuck themselves' and follows it up with the middle finger. And, why not? He has got nothing to lose.
Another good addition to the film was Constantine's sidekick, Chas Chandler, played by Shia LaBeouf. The guy, or should I say kid, was a perfect sidekick as he was humorous and somewhat innocent to the paranormal world [even though he wanted to be more involved]. Hearing Chas try to repeat lines exactly like Constantine was classic.
All the characters in this film were cast wonderfully. Gabriel, the half-breed
angel, is played by Tilda Swinton [Vanilla Sky, Adaptation],
who did a surprisingly good job as the powerful angel. Midnite, played by
Djimon Hounsou, was also another great character. Midnite was one of the
last half-breed angels who actually kept the balance by playing no part
in human affairs. Djimon, as expected, portrayed Midnite as a leader of
half-breed angels and as an advisor to Constantine.
We also met Balthazar [Gavin Rossdale], a 'bad' half-breed that works to torment humans. Gavin Rossdale, the lead singer of the band Bush, plays
a great role as the dark, business looking, character of Balthazar. We even get a nice cameo of Satan, who is played by Peter Stormare. While each of these roles were relatively
short, they were well played just the same.
Final Judgment: I can't believe Constantine is only getting
decent reviews. I greatly enjoyed Constantine! This film is the
coolest film I have seen for 2005 and it will probably remain the coolest
film for some time. This isn't your colorful-love-the-hero comic book
film, this is the story of John Constantine, and its one that is filled
with darkness and misery. If you want to see one of the first films of
the year to fall off standard movie, and comic book, conventions and present
something uniquely different, go see this film!