CONSTANTINEWarner Bros.
2005
R

“You’re the one soul I would come up here to collect myself.”

He smokes like a chimney, he drinks like a fish, and he has a jaded outlook on life and the afterlife…it’s John Constantine, reluctant agent of the forces of God, while the minions of Hell have a serious mad-on for his soul. After doing one of his exorcisms, he notices that the spiritual balance is outa whack, and the evil is beginning to spill over into the “real world”, so to speak. It has something to do with a detective’s twin sister who committed suicide recently. So, with the help of the detective, his sidekick and a host of interesting characters possessing mad juju, Johnny boy is the only thing standing in the way of the forces of Evil.

Off hand, since I am a fan of the Hellblazer series, I did go into this movie with a bit of the ol’ fanboy baggage. Sure, at first when it was announced that Constantine would be played, not only by a non-English actor but by Keanu “Whoa” Reeves, and set in Los Angeles instead of London, I was a bit miffed. Then I read a couple of interviews with director Francis Lawrence, and when he explained the reason behind these decisions, I calmed down a bit. However, the issue of the movie retaining the same spirit of the comics while still being a stand-alone movie still lingered…will it be something to behold, or will Constantine be yet another in what seems to be a long line of modern Hollywood-version of comic characters?

Finally, I was able to muster up the courage to see this movie without feeling I’ve paid too much for the ticket. To say the very least (which is something I don’t do when it comes to my reviews…whatever), Constantine managed to capture the dark spirit of the Vertigo comic, while translating the character to the big screen in a way that makes it interesting for those who have never read the comic.

Not really a straight-ahead horror movie, Constantine is more of a gritty supernatural noir on acid. Overtones of The Prophecy and The Exorcist (natch) are natural comparisons, making way with some very impressive effects involving the traveling between spiritual planes, the demons and the angels…there were two I counted…that made the horror overtones dark and gritty. And I’m proud to announce- NO WIRE-FU! It could have at the mass demon confrontation in the hospital, but it didn’t go that route. To that, I applaud…

John Constantine’s character, I felt, was handled very well. In my book, this is about the only time I thought that Keanu’s stilted, deadpan delivery style of acting worked to his favor. From Constantine’s cynical “whatever” take on life, to his demeanor, right down to delicious dry sense of humor (what he does when he’s on his way to heaven is priceless), Constantine is the kind of anti-hero I go for.

On the down side of things, the movie seemed to try to cram in too much into one sitting. The story was all over the place, with some angles that weren’t pushed as far as they could have been. And quite frankly, that end shot of Constantine chomping down on a stick of gum just betrayed what the character is all about. Oh, quit whining. I gave nothing away that matters…Political Correctness sucks…

All said and done, I had a blast with this flick. It has the makings of a great cult franchise, like The Crow or The Prophecy…just don’t go watch this if you just recently quit smoking…trust me…