Movie Review: Constantine

Original art from

There are no spoilers in this review.

Emmanuel Vivier from Creadrive / Culture-Buzz asked whether I'd like to review a movie and a couple of days later I received the collector's edition DVD of Constantine - the movie:

Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer graphic novels and written by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, Constantine tells the story of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves [see note]), a man who has literally been to hell and back. When he teams up with skeptical policewoman Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.

Did I like it?

Yes, and I've seen it twice. The film starts off strongly with some chilling scenes that make you dig into your seat and prepare for what seems to be a good horror movie. The special effects are great and the bonus DVD is great at explaining how the movie was made (the bonus is as interesting as the movie). Some parts of the movie are indeed remarkable, including the vision of a parallel hell coexisting as an invisible layer on Earth, inhabited by brainless (and soul-less) demons. There's lots of original material and you get the sense that the directors had a vision when making this film, so Constantine is worth seeing and I'm glad to have it in my collection. I'll be seeing it again, if only for some good scenes.

However, the movie falls short of being a favorite of mine. After the strong start, the movie slowly becomes a special effects extravaganza, to the detriment of the good film noir feel. The movie alternates between a comic book look and grim realism (see here) ... whereas sticking with either style would have been much better. Keanu's acting is wooden, his rapport with Angela lacks tension, and some of the dialogues are ridiculous. It would have been great to have a voice-over, like Deckart on Blade Runner, if only to add interest to John Constantine by exposing his train of thought. The Angel Gabriel is just plain strange and fails to inspire fear. Overall, the movie falls in love with itself and goes overboard with the special effects to the detriment of the story. It's a pity, because there's ample material here to make a good, cult film-noir.

I haven't read the Hellblazer comics but I get the feeling that it's quite a bit different than the movie and that direct comparisons by purists are irrelevant: inspired by the comic book series, the movie stands on its own feet.

How well did the movie do? Here are some numbers, from Rotten Tomatoes:

Box Office Total: $75,500,759
Box Office Opening: $29,769,098
No. of Weeks in Top 10: 5
Highest Ranking: 2

Note: Hellblazer fans have criticized the casting of Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, most notably because he bears no resemblance to Sting, after whom the comic book character is modeled. On the other hand, Keanu has long battled his own demons, making him an appropriate choice for this film noir. According to

Despite the meteoric success of his Hollywood career, both Keanu’s family life and love life have been dogged by disaster.The troubled star’s ex-convict father, Sam, abandoned both Keanu and his mother when he was just a few years old. Later, the Reeves family was again rocked when an argument between Keanu’s sister, Kim - who has been battling leukaemia - and her mother over an English woman she had taken on as an adoptive daughter caused a bitter rift.Since then, Keanu has battled deep depression after the heartache of his daughter being still-born, as well as her mother, Jennifer Syme, being killed in a tragic road accident a year later.

In light of this, Keanu's somewhat expressionless and wooden acting in the movie is surprising. He carries the movie, of course, but does it without emotion and in a monotone that's in striking contrast to the wild demonic goings-on around him. Ok, so he lives without hope, is unimpressed by the demons he sees and has develped a cynical attitude.In my experience, however, despite their general standoffishness, cynical people tend to engage more emotionally with those around them than the character Constantine does.

For a good review of the movie, see here ... (with spoilers).

August 25, 2005 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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