John Constantine is a smart-ass, but he's a tough smart-ass. When he's not smoking and drinking his life away in a trench coat that looks like it could walk itself home, he is busy performing all sorts of magical trickery. You see, John can sense when angels or demons are nearby. Well, that's not entirely accurate; he can sense when they have possessed a host, which makes them part-human and part-whatever. John likes to play on the side of angels, when he can, and sends any misbehaving demons back to Hell. When Angela's (Rachel Weisz) crazy and crazy-religious twin sister committed suicide, Angela doesn't believe it. When she watches a video of her sister just before jumping to her death, she thinks she hears her sister say "Constantine." Naturally, she
Now, when looking at the plot's framework, you might assume that this movie has kind of a suspense/thriller tone. Nope. This is an action movie. I guess that explains Keanu's participation, but with heavy Bible and occult references, this seems like a poor choice for an action movie.
The acting is generally pretty mediocre, which is what you should expect in a Keanu Reeves vehicle. Keanu manages to not say "whoa" even once (I think), but that's about the best thing I can say about his performance. His character is sarcastic and world-weary, and should have a more gravelly voice from all the cigarettes he smokes, but Keanu doesn't quite convey these complexities. I don't know if that is his fault, the director's or maybe whoever cast Keanu Freakin' Reeves as a clever, sarcastic, British bastard --- Reeves would have had a better chance starring in an Alf biopic than pulling off this character. Rachel Weisz, as the I-don't-believe-in-demons-and-angels-on-Earth character, was surprisingly boring. I normally like Weisz, but I felt like she was playing down to Keanu's level. Shia LaBeouf has a small role as Constantine's aspiring apprentice, and he was okay. SPOILER: He dies like a chump, though. I liked Djimon Hounsou as the almost pimp-like owner of a angel/demon neutral club. His part is pretty one-dimensional, but it had some flair. Gavin Rossdale, of all people, was cast as a minor demon, and he is wretched. If he had to be in the movie, I would have preferred it if he just read the lyrics to "Machinehead" aloud, instead of trying to emote. On the bright side, Rossdale makes Reeves look positively professional by comparison.
|Gavin Rossdale in Constantine|
The best actors were the most powerful characters in the film. Tilda Swinton played the archangel Gabriel, and her not-quite-human looks worked well with the character. It was also an interesting idea to have an angel that was actually kind of evil at times. Peter Stormare, as Satan, was only on-camera for a few minutes late in the movie, but I thought he did a great job. It was an interesting take on the character, maybe not what I would have done, but Stormare is great at playing slimy characters and, really, is there a slimier character than lounge-suit Satan?
|Tilda Swinton will eat your face off, humans.|
This was director Francis Lawrence's first feature film after years of directing music videos, and his affinity for fantastic visuals in three-minute chunks is apparent in this movie. Just as apparent is Lawrence's inexperience with coaching dialogue from his performers. Gavin Rossdale and Keanu Reeves I can understand reciting lines like rote repetition, but too many supporting characters seemed under-inspired, and that's the director's fault.
Still, this movie does look pretty cool. There are some stupid things --- a weird foot fetish-esque scene, Hell looks like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and someone slices their wrists and cuts across the veins --- but the general idea of angels and demons possessing people is a cool one. So how far do good looks and a nice idea take you? A long way, actually, unless your movie is sabotaged by poor acting.