Starring Keanu (The Matrix) Reeves, Rachel (The Mummy) Weisz, Djimon (Gladiator) Hounsou
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Okay, I'll admit it. I went into this film with low expectations. Another big budget Hollywood F/X film about heaven and hell helmed by a music video director (Francis Lawrence) who had yet to tackle a feature film and anchored by leading man Keanu Reeves. If this doesn’t sound like a disaster waiting to happen I don’t know what does.
In case you were unaware, Constantine is based on the popular cult comic book series Hellblazer. I have to admit I have never read the comic and didn’t really know much about it. However, I had heard that it took place in London and that the main character John Constantine was British. Apparently that concept was tossed out the window early on, and the character is now an American living in Los Angeles. I’m just thankful I didn’t have to sit through an entire 2-hour plus film with Keanu doing an English accent...Bram Stoker’s Dracula anyone?
This film doesn’t waste any time kicking into gear. The action starts right out of the gate and delivers throughout in heavy doses. There are a few slow spots in the 2-hour-plus running time, but there is actually a story being told that is worth your time.
I have never been a big fan of Keanu Reeves, but I have to say that he plays this role quite well. Constantine is an anti-hero who really doesn't give a damn about himself or the people he is helping. Reeves' performance as the hardboiled Constantine is solid throughout and the best I have seen from him in a long time.
Rachel Weisz gives a very strong performance in dual roles as twin sisters Angela and Isabel Dodson. She is a solid actress who adds a level of believability to the story that, if played poorly, could have been disastrous for the picture. Angela’s love/hate relationship with Constantine adds a romance element below the surface that is performed perfectly by Reeves and Weisz and is very well written.
Actors Djimon Hounsou (Papa Midnite) and Shia LaBeouf (Chaz) also give outstanding performances in their supporting roles, as do other notables Pruitt Taylor Vince (Father Hennessy) and Tilda Swinton (Gabriel). The only real distraction is Bush front man Gavin Rossdale as Satan’s emissary Balthazar. It’s not that his performance wasn’t good, it’s just that if you know him as the singer/guitarist of Bush and husband of No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, when he appears on the screen for the first time, that is pretty much all you can think about. It was the only moment that took me out of the film; but if I didn’t know who he was, I believe I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
Director Francis Lawrence has proven that he can deliver a well-paced film that isn’t too flashy and over the top like some might expect from a music video director. I didn’t get a distinct style from Lawrence, but he has plenty of skill and what appears to be a long and successful career in feature film ahead of him.
As far as special effects go this film is packed to the hilt with them. I’m no fan of CGI, and this film does have more than its share, but it seems to work well and not be too much of a distraction. The practical make-up effects from Stan Winston Studios are top notch as usual and blend well with the CGI.
So yeah, I went into this Constantine expecting the worst and came out wanting more. It blends several genres together seamlessly. It delivers horror, action, suspense, drama, and just enough doses of comedy and romance without losing its edge. Constantine is a film that I believe will find a wide audience and another potential franchise for Reeves and Warner Brothers. Move over Neo; Constantine’s in town.
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