Film: Constantine

Cover image


Director: Francis Lawrence
Distributor: Warner Home Video

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), 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.


In the grand scheme of theological thrillers, Constantine aspires for the greatness of The Exorcist but ranks more closely with The Order. Based on the popular Hellblazer comic book series, and directed with nary a shred of intelligence by music video veteran Francis Lawrence, it’s basically The Matrix with swarming demons instead of swarming machines. Keanu Reeves slightly modifies his Matrix persona as John Constantine, who roams the dark-spots of Los Angeles looking for good-evil, angel-devil half-breeds to ensure that “the balance” between God and Satan is properly maintained. An ancient artifact and the detective twin of a woman who committed evil-induced suicide (Rachel Weisz) factor into the plot, which is taken so seriously that you’ll want to stand up and cheer when Tilda Swinton swoops down as the cross-dressing angel Gabriel and turns this silliness into the camp-fest it really is. The digital effects are way cool (dig those hellspawn with the tops of their heads lopped off!), so if you don’t mind a juvenile lesson in pseudo-Catholic salvation, Constantine is just the movie for you! —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

Another horror-action movie that comes to the screen by way of comic books, Constantine gives Matrix star Keanu Reeves yet another opportunity to do battle with demonic forces as humanity’s fate hangs by a thread. He plays John Constantine, a suicide victim who confronts undead malefactors on a daily basis to maintain the tenuous balance of good and evil—and hopefully win entry into heaven, thus far denied him. Aided by a small but devoted network of friends (Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, and Pruitt Taylor Vince, among others), the cynical, irreverent Constantine wages constant war on an enemy that goes unseen by human beings. After being enlisted by police detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) to help her ascertain the reasons for her twin sister’s suicide, John uncovers a gargantuan plot that ultimately brings him face-to-face with Satan himself (Peter Stormare). The yarn’s comic-book origins are readily apparent; one can easily imagine the dialogue appearing in word balloons over the characters’ heads. Constantine abounds in supernatural claptrap and corny plot devices, but it features inventive, eye-popping special effects and moves like a freight train under the direction of music-video specialist Francis Lawrence. Along with the rapid pace and stylish visuals, we get some fight scenes in which Reeves shows his mettle. (Obviously, all those brawls with the Matrix trilogy’s Agent Smith served to toughen up our boy Keanu.) Make no mistake about it, this movie is filled with nonsense from beginning to end—but it’s highly entertaining and slickly turned-out nonsense, which is the best kind. Ed Hulse

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