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Constantine

2005 film loosely based on DC / Vertigo's Hellblazer comic books.

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The Surgeon General Never Warned You About This!

  • May 14, 2005
Rating:
+5
Pros: The most unusual 'quit smoking' regimen I've seen anyone use!

Cons: Drags a bit, potential to be overwhelmingly broody, and a bit choppy in places.

The Bottom Line: More grown-up than Hellboy, the Bottom Line is useful in banishing those pesky demons!

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Have you ever felt watched when no one was there, or felt like the rope in a game of tug-of-war where you can't see the players? Have you ever felt as if there was more going on just below the surface of the life you could see all around you? John Constantine's life is a tribute to the thought that maybe we should just be grateful that we don't see beyond that surface!

The Story

John was born with the ability to see beyond the surface of reality. What does this mean? It means he probably had to struggle from a very young age not to give in to madness! It also means that he could always see the influence brokers as he's come to call them. Those angelic and demonic halfbreeds who, for whatever reason, roam our Earth looking to influence things for their "side". According to John, our only purpose as human beings is to settle a bet between God and Satan. The bet? Who'll end up with the most souls.... without directly interferring, of course!

John almost took himself out of the game once, long ago, and for that he is slated to travel downwards when his time comes. Yet he has spent his life serving the Balance. He has used his gift and honed his skills towards one purpose. Whenever an agent of either side steps out of the bounds and interfers...he deports them. After finding out that he is dying of cancer (again!), John rails against the injustice of spending his life preserving Balance between two seemingly uncaring entities only to end up in Hell...where far too many of the inhabitants wait to exact their revenge upon him. "Shouldn't that count for something?", he asks his angelic contact. "Trying to buy your way into Heaven?!" Gabriel admonishes him, "Everything you have ever done has only been for yourself!"

Needless to say, John is not a happy man...but he is, fortunately for us, driven. Almost against his own will, Constantine finds himself helping out a devout Catholic police detective, Angela. All evidence says that her twin, Isabelle, committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the hospital where she was a psychiatric patient. Angela, however, believes it was murder. She also believes that only someone uniquely gifted, like John, can help her rescue her sister's soul from the eternal torment of Hell. Yet, Constantine soon realizes that he didn't commit himself simply to helping Angela save her sister's soul. Somehow, he has to rescue all of us from the fate that hangs precariously upon the point of the Spear of Destiny.

The Cast

Keanu Reeves as John Constantine: Is Keanu trying to break out of the Bill and Ted mold once and for all...by typecasting himself as Saviour of the World? I think film fans will always debate whether or not Keanu can in fact act, or if 'Ted' is all he's capable of no matter what role he takes on. I say, "It's been more than a decade people...get over it!" All joking aside though, I have to say that I found myself watching him at one point in the film and thinking..."Man, he's come a long way."

In my opinion, Reeves did an excellent job playing the reluctant and embittered antihero. Constantine is so serious a character that when he finally does crack a joke that isn't sarcastic and nearly smiles...the impact is felt exactly as it was intended. It actually looks like it's been so long since he smiled that he's almost forgotten How! This role actually gave Reeves something to bite into, unlike the one-dimensional bad-guys Don John (Much Ado About Nothing) and Donnie Barksdale (The Gift). Constantine is portrayed as he was meant to be, not good or bad...human and driven.

Rachel Weisz as Angela/Isabelle Dodson": Far less controversial an actor than Keanu, Rachel Weisz is nevertheless quickly climbing my charts of Favorite Actresses. She seems to expend next to no effort in making herself believable in any role she chooses to take on. The dual role of Angela and Isabelle is a prime example of both Weisz's talent and charm.

While Isabelle's role mostly consists of ethereal movements and one or two whispered words, Weisz conveys a lot of the character's inner turmoil and urgency simply through her eyes. She seems to have mastered the Meaningful Look. Angela, on the other hand, is a much more developed character and it is primarily through her that we learn about both of these characters. I found her balancing act between devout Catholic, competent police detective, reluctant psychic, and loving guilt-ridden sister to be quite captivating.

Shia LaBeouf as Chaz Chandler: Chas is the perfect apprentice to Constantine who considers him more to be more like a chauffer/sidekick. While Chas is mostly there for comic relief and fulfills that nicely, when the chips are down he proves himself worthy to be Constantine's apprentice by being far more competant and knowledgable than appearance would have one assume. Looking at his filmography which includes some pretty successful films ("Holes", "Dumb and Dumberer", "I, Robot"), I can't help but wonder what feats of acting he may aspire to in the future. I look forward to watching his progress.

Max Baker as Beeman: This name rang absolutely no bells with me and with the possible exclusion of 2002's Time Machine, I don't believe I've actually ever seen this actor in anything before. On the upside, I guess that means I don't have any pre-conceived notions or prejuidices about this actor. As the semi-creepy, obsessive X-files type of loner...Max Baker was note perfect. Don't know if there is an upside to that though!

Pruitt Taylor Vince as Father Hennessy: This disfunctional priest is the third wheel in Constantine's rickety supernatural detective's cart. While this isn't a large role like Vince's portrayal in "Identity" or as amusing as his role in "Mumford", Vince gives us an interesting performance nevertheless. He managed to get me wondering what his story was, and I even felt a twinge of regret when I realized that I wouldn't be finding out during this film. I suppose a lot of folks could have fulfilled this role, but Pruitt Vince really is deserving of more notice, so I wouldn't begrudge him even a small role.


Djimon Hounsou as Papa Midnite: Midnite seems to be the only character in Constantine's life that could be genuinely called a friend or peer. Midnite runs an exclusive club where those of the demonic or angelic persuasion (or those Gifted humans who can give the bouncer the 'password') can come to relax after a hard day of influencing humans. Midnite's first priority seems to be Keeping the Balance and other than that we aren't really sure what he does. Given the bizarre collection of items he has in storage though, I'd say his interests don't run the usual gamut! He has a vaguely exotic accent and some flashy clothes to go with the odd hobbies and Lovecraftian club. Other than that, we're given only vague hints as to his possible 'powers' or his chosen purpose. Huonsou was solidly believable as the level-headed confidant in Constantine's exotic version of reality.



Tilda Swinton as Gabriel: I first saw this actress in the dreadfully boring "Young Adam", so at least I recognized her from something. I hadn't found that particular role to be especially captivating though and would have probably dismissed her from memory. However, her portrayal as the androgynous Gabriel simply blew me away. First and foremost, Gabriel believes that everything he does is for the greater glory of God....even if God doesn't happen to agree. Swinton nailed this blend of fanatical loyalty, arrogance, and jealousy. She actually sent chills up my spine at one point. Because of this role...I will never again forget the name of Tilda Swinton, and I believe this film is worth seeing just for Tilda.

Peter Stormare as Satan: This Swedish born actor is probably not known by name to most movie-goers. It should be though! He has an impressive list of films under his belt including: Bad Boys 2, Minority Report, The Tuxedo, Windtalkers, 8mm, The Big Lebowski, and Chocolat. This is probably the first time I've seen him take a central role though, he's usually one of the side characters. In fact, he intially auditioned for the role of Balthazar who would, obviously, be less well known than the big S himself. I hope that Stormare's work here will finally get him the notice and recognition that he so richly deserves.

As Satan, Stormare was....disturbingly believable, lol. Sleek yet infinetly corrupt, Satan has his own agenda. There is never any doubt about that. You're just never really confident that he might not get carried away, forget his agenda and decide that You are in his way. The audience seemed almost grateful that all of his attention was focused on Constantine! Now that is an impressive portrayal of Satan! A brief, but powerful role.

Gavin Rossdale as Balthazar: This supporting role wasn't large or grandiose and was, in fact, often eclipsed by the more vibrant characters in the story. Perhaps it was his elegant air of understated menace that simply seems to waft off of him as he moved across the screen. Yet, something indefinable about Rossdale's performance had me wishing that he had a more integral role. Better known for his singing career, Rossdale could sprout an interesting acting career out of the seed of this single portrayal.

My Thoughts

Constantine joins the rapidly growing list of graphic novels adaptated to the big screen, much to my delight. I was always a die-hard Marvel girl (no pun intended), but this was one of the few D.C. graphic novels that I simply couldn't resist. I think they did a wonderful job of giving us a sweeping yet cohesive tale, even though they did quite a lot of artistic liscensing. I could see devoted fans of Hellblazer comics being less than pleased with their turning three characters into one (Father Hennessy), or with John being an American instead of the Liverpudlian anti-hero made famous in ink. To me, the end results speaks for itself. This film was entertaining and kept to the spirit of both story and characters.

There were one or two spots during the 121 minutes of this film where I felt the pacing slip and drag a bit. I also think it was extremely difficult to show all the threads going on without revealing too much or leaving the audience completely lost as to who was who and what was going on. So, I could see some audience confusion being a bit of a drawback. All in all though, these are minor flaws in an excellent fantasy/adventure tale.

The effects were interesting and well executed. They fight the whole "Can you really portray something nearly incomprehensible to the human mind, like how a demon would look as you were forcing him back into Hell" thing though. I mean, it's one thing to be the Couch Potato watching the Olympics and criticisizing a professional athelete's gymnastic performance. It's something else all together when you find yourself thinking, "Is that really what the son of Satan would look like?!"

After sifting through all of these pros and cons though, it comes down to a really simple conclusion. I was entertained! I had nearly forgotten about Hellblazer and this film not only brought back some good memories, but it also allowed me to appreciate a really good graphic novel in a whole new medium. I can't wait to see what extras are on the DVD...and I've never been happier to have quit smoking!





Recommended:
Yes

Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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October 07, 2010
Love your review! I have featured it!
October 07, 2010
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed :o) I greatly appreciate the feedback, and the feature! :o) wishing you laughter
 
October 07, 2010
It was much better than I thought it was going to be. And I do really need to check out its source material.
October 07, 2010
Karen, check out Hellblazer: Original Sins and Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits--they're the storylines that had inspired this film.
October 07, 2010
Agreed, I really didn't expect to like this film half as much as I did... but I think it is more difficult to be impressed by a film based on any kind of written work. Our imaginations are capable of so much more than film, which makes it difficult for a film to capture what we've already seen in our mind's eye. Not many people take the time to read "comics", but there are many graphic novels well worth the time! Woopak has given you excellent suggestions on where to start with Hellblazer. :o) Thanks so much for the feedback; always Greatly appreciated! :o) wishing you laughter
October 07, 2010
Thanks for the suggestions. It's always nice to know where to start. I'm into a few comix on a regular basis and have been thinking of trying to cut back for financial reasons but I can't figure out which to cut. I could never cut Conan. That's the only thing I've figured out sor sure so far. I just love my Robert Howard.
 
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More Constantine reviews
Quick Tip by . February 05, 2012
Caption
Sure, this film deviates from the source material by making John Constantine American instead of British. Sure, it changes its setting and backdrop. Sure, it doesn't have the gritty, dark, often uneasy tone and mood set in the Vertigo comics....But I would be lying if I said that Francis Lawrence's interpretation of the comic character wasn't fun to watch. (I have read the series since its inception) It made the changes to cater to a more mainstream audience and non-readers …
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Keanu Reeves kicks ass in this film following a excercist in his battle against the devil himself.
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
suprisingly good movie. interesting story that makes you actually want to see the rest.
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Keanu Reeves kicks ass in this film following a excorist in his battle against the devil himself.
review by . December 23, 2008
Poster
Loosely based upon the dark comic book and graphic novel series published by DC Comics/Vertigo, Constantine is a supernatural thriller with amazing visual effects, thrilling action, and a great cast. Unfortunately, the film's screenplay, which was written by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, fails to capture the spirit of the books. Rather than keeping the characters as they are in the books, the writers have taken liberties that minimalize the effect of the story. In the books, John Constantine …
review by . December 30, 2009
Hell breaks loose in L.A. and there's only one man who can saves us, Constantine....
Constantine is not your usual supernatural thriller, no Constantine breaks all the rules that the genre has put in stone, it breaks down the wall and builds a new one based on it's own mythology. And may I say that it does a n amazing job at that.         This film is not something I usually watch, in fact I was very skeptical when I deiced to view just to see if it was any good, boy was I surprised! Constantine was amazing!! This film blew my hair back and took my …
review by . April 11, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
A lot of people are saying that Constantine is wrong because Keanu Reeves is wrong for the part but I see it differently. See I'm no fan of Reeves and I actually think of him as a dry and predictable actor that always acts the same in every film. The stories he gets and his supporting cast is so good that they make him look even better and he gets a high price tag. Constantine needed an actor to play the character as a mean, intimidating, and vicious loner and who better to play that than a man …
review by . April 09, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Visuals, Ms. Weisz     Cons: Keanu Reeves; direction; plot     The Bottom Line: In the end, as the credits roll, there isn¬ít much of a story in Constantine, there are far too many loose ends and tangling story lines.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. The Struggle. On one side, Good, the other side, Evil. On one side God, the other Satan known in some circles both Greek and Christian, as …
review by . August 11, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
For fans of the comic book on which this movie is based -- "John Constantine: HELLBLAZER" -- it will doubtless be a disappointment. I myself am an avid reader of said comic, and when I think of how much better the movie could have been...SHOULD have been...it makes me a little sad. For one thing, the John Constantine of the comic lives in London, not Los Angeles, and this is a critical difference, both for the character and the story. Constantine is supposed to be British through and through, and …
review by . July 23, 2005
The trailer for CONSTANTINE made it looking vaguely intriguing: majestic wingspan lifting above Gabriel's head, murky derring-do in the streets of Los Angeles, the presence of Tilda Swinton (always involved - until now - in interesting dramatic films), Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, and yes, Keanu Reeves. So what happened?    Director Francis Lawrence should stick to his prior experience with making music videos. After the first few minutes of this tired and monotonous script …
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Quinn Blackburn ()
Ranked #49
Hello, my name is Quinn... yes, that really is my first name. :o) I also answer to Mom, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe … more
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Wiki

With the ability to identify angels and demons as they exist on Earth, Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is tormented and set apart from other people. He is self destructive and angry, yet he does the right thing in protecting the citizens of Los Angeles from the dark forces that surround them. However, when he falls in love with a cop (Rachel Weisz), everything begins to change.

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 ...
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Details

Director: Francis Lawrence
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
Release Date: February 18, 2005
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Akiva Goldsman
DVD Release Date: July 19, 2005
Runtime: 2hrs 1min
Studio: Warner Bros.
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