Constantine (2005)
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Review Date: February 17, 2005
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello
Producers: Lorenzo DiBonaventura, Akiva Goldsman, Benjamin Melniker
Keanu Reeves as Constantine
Rachel Weisz as Angela
Djimon Hounsou as Midnite
A cool, yet bitter, man who likes to smoke a lot and dress in black trenchcoats has the power to send demons from hell back to their papa, whenever they try to enter the world of nice people like you and me. His name is John Constantine and he too, is now dying of cancer and attempting to figure out a way to get his ass into heaven, instead of that hot red spot underground. Exorcisms, demons executions, lots of cigarette smoke and an “ass shot” of Rachel Weisz ensue (sorry kids, just kidding about that Weisz “ass shot”—although you can rent ENEMY AT THE GATES for that).
Phew. For a second there, I thought we were gonna get nothing but dogshit, recycled, former TV-show, remake-of-a-remakes starring Ice Cube, some kids and that Dakota Fanning chickie-dee for everything coming out of Hollywood in 2005, but thanks to Warner Bros, Keanu Reeves, director Francis Lawrence – finally, a director who holds out for an R-rating…good shit! – we’ve got ourselves a “real movie” here, complete with a mystery-based plotline, some hocus-pocus, plenty of darkness, Reeves smoking like a chimney, justified special effects and most importantly…balls, man…balls. I don’t usually care much about how a film does at the box-office since that doesn’t make a difference on my opinion of said flick, but in this case, I’m really hoping that this movie makes some coin so that 1) other studios can get their shit in gear and actually back other riskier projects of the sort and 2) I can see more of this dude, John Constantine! And that’s probably one of the things that I liked most about this film…the lead character, and particularly, the lead character as portrayed by Reeves, with the skinny black tie, the groovy trenchcoat, the smokes and the friggin’ dry wit…this guy wasn’t a superhero, but he sold me from the get-go (great opening exorcism, by the way) and I was riding his tail the whole way.

Thankfully for him, he also had some great back-up here, with many of the secondary characters also well-cast and appealing, especially Rachel Weisz, whose beauty, acting chops and wet shirts, made the film all that more enticing. The only character I wish the film had excised would have been the “side-kick” played by the annoying Shia LaBeouf. Story-wise, I was intrigued by the basic premise of the film, appreciated its slow pace early on, and very few clues, but I have to admit that things seemed to go a little too slowly at times, as I was hoping for more “oomph”. The film also outlasted its stay at 2 hours, particularly during its “final showdown” sequence which lasted waaaaaay too long and dragged things out somewhat. That said, I still really liked the movie, but that doesn’t mean that a little “chop-chop” wouldn’t have made it all the better. I was also surprised at how well most of the CGI was integrated into the movie, particularly in a sequence featuring the lead singer of the band Bush (great looking man, incidentally), which reminded me of THEY LIVE and the V mini-series…but much, much cooler! The scene in which Reeves’ character blows away some baddies with a bad-ass gun was also very well-done and reminiscent of the opening sequence from BLADE—I only wish there were a few more “action scenes” as such, but no matter…I’ll take what I can get.

Finally, more props go out to the director for not choosing to stink up the film’s soundtrack with two-bit ‘alt-rock’ tunes of the day (nice understated score), and for its gorgeous display of visuals, which combined with the man’s obvious stylized eye for directing (this is his first feature—he used to be a music video director), helped provide the film with the ideal visual environment for the story. Yes, I would have liked more “meat” in the real world, less spiritual gobbledygook from the “otherworld”, and a little less runtime, but some of that is just personal taste, and I think some of that will also be relieved when I watch this movie again on DVD, where I’m sure it will come through, once again. Oh, and how about that very fun cameo by Peter Stormare and that ultra-cool nightclub run by Djimon Hounsou? Bit elements which combined with Reeves’ winning performance, Weisz’s appreciated presence, gorgeous visuals, darkness and gore, and a very welcome R-rating (yeah, we “adults” like to watch movies too), make CONSTANTINE one of this year’s cooler “must-see” flicks for all lovers of the genre. And by the way, if you enjoy the “devil wants to take over the world” type of pics, check out Roman Polanski’s underrated THE NINTH GATE, starring the masterful Johnny Depp.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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