Long ago, God and The Devil struck a deal; neither one of them could directly affect mankind’s path towards righteousness or wickedness.
Only through indirect influence could they manipulate the balance of good and evil; may the best deity win.
When an agent of Heaven or Hell tries to break into the waking world and tip the scale, one man is there to begrudgingly set things straight.
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo title, Hellblazer, and directed by music video veteran, Francis Lawrence, Constantine follows John Constantine (Keanu Reeves).
He possesses the gift (curse) of being able to see the underlying layer of angel and demon activity in the world.
After committing a mortal sin, securing him an eternity-long vacation at Hotel Hell, John desperately tries to get himself a one-way ticket to the pearly gates. And how does he think he can get back in God’s good graces? By exorcising every demon he can get his crucifix on, that’s how.
Using his golden cross shotgun, dragon’s breath flamethrower and other pious gadgets, he drives Lucifer’s cronies back to Hell, which doesn’t give him a high approval rating within the demonic demographic.
John’s life becomes a holy mess (pun intended) when he finds out his ticket is itching to be punched as cancer infects his lungs. Matters are made worse when The Spear of Destiny, the weapon that actually ended Christ’s life, capable of unleashing the son of Satan onto our unsuspecting blue jawbreaker, surfaces.
Aiding Constantine in this demon debacle are Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), a detective searching for the connection between the plans of Satan’s progeny and the suicide of her twin sister, and Chas (Shia LaBeouf), John’s cab-driving chauffeur and wannabe apprentice.
Comic book purists will turn their noses to Constantine because of how much it deviates from the comic created by Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano.
In the comic, Constantine is a blonde-haired Brit donning his olive trench coat in foggy Liverpool. In the movie, he’s a black-haired, suit wearing Los Angeles native.
If these people can’t deal with Greedo shooting first in Star Wars, they’re definitely not going to have any mercy for Lawrence and his creative liberties.
Comic book faithfulness aside, Constantine certainly delivers in the aesthetic department. The moments where angels and demons reveal their true selves are full of majestic beauty and grotesque horror, respectively.
The special effects in this film go beyond just being trite eye candy and actually hit you on a gut level.
Lawrence’s concept of Hell is the most chilling version I’ve ever seen.
The best way to describe it would be a decaying Los Angeles during a constant nuclear blast filling the air with heat and debris.
The concept of having Hell modeled after a major city that most of us have seen in at least a picture lends to the idea that “Hell is what you make of it.” This helps develop a better connection with audiences because Hell now has a more tangible feeling instead of being a completely surreal fantasy world.
Constantine’s story is a classic movie recipe that has entertained audiences since the inception of theater.
It is your basic good vs. evil and blatantly so. Add a dash of romantic tension between Reeves and Weisz, sprinkle in a decent plot twist in the third act, bake in the fires of Hell for two hours and serve.
It makes for a delicious escape that does its job in entertaining viewers.
The film’s only pitfall lies in its performances. Reeves’ curt and overly stoic acting would make wooden planks beg for a gratuitous sex scene to spice things up on screen.
Of course, some of this is based on the character of Constantine, but even in scenes that require an ounce of anger or compassion, Reeves delivers it so cold, it had to be measured in Kelvins. Weisz’s performance is the exact opposite.
The emotion that she conveys in every line may win her an Oscar one day, but in contrast to Reeve’s deadpan delivery, their chemistry had all the cohesiveness of Oil of Catechumens and holy water.
Even though the acting in Constantine was nothing to sing hymns about, it was still a thrilling action flick that would be worth tithing a small percent of your earnings to the movie theater.