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

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John Constantine: Hellblazer

  • Dec 23, 2008
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 is a blond-haired British anti-hero. Here he's played by Keanu Reeves, with black hair and an American accent. Normally I wouldn't complain about such trivial details, but the character of Constantine is further changed from his comic book counterpart. This brings me to one of the film's greatest strengths; it's original and unafraid to make changes. Breaking away from many of the conventions found in the "superhero" genre, Constantine dares to be somber and politically incorrect. Can you name any other "comic book" film where the hero has cancer, is suicidal, and generally disliked by everyone that he associates with? Nope, I didn't think so.
Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, asshole...

Demon hunter and exorcist, John Constantine has never been a popular guy, but his talents are in high demand. Constantine has the ability to see damned spirits and the knowledge necessary to send them back to Hell. The only problem is that he's a chain-smoking, cynical, selfish S.O.B. and he's just been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. When Constantine is contacted by detective Angela Dodson to investigate the apparent suicide of her twin sister, Constantine discovers a demonic conspiracy to bring about the apocalypse. Relying on a small group of demon hunters, occultists, and half-breeds (a term for Earth-bound angels and demons), Constantine wages a war against the Devil. But it's only a matter of time before his cancer overpowers him and the sins of his past decide his fate in the afterlife. Will John Constantine be sent to Hell for his misdeeds, or will the gates of Heaven part for this proud and defiant sinner? In the battle between two worlds, between Heaven and Hell, between all that's good and all that's evil, between the holy and the profane... John Constantine fights for the middle ground.

Rachel Weisz as Angela
The big budget action/thriller features an atypical cast, which with the exception of odd man out Keanu Reeves, fits the film's anarchic atmosphere perfectly. Though Keanu gives a fine performance, his looks and his mannerisms never seem right for the character, who was supposedly modeled after Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry and Sting, the lead singer of The Police.
The cast...
The cast includes Rachel Weisz as Angela and Isabel Dodson, Shia LaBeouf as Chas, Tilda Swinton as Gabriel, Djimon Honsou as Papa Midnite, Gavin Rossdale as Balthazar, and Peter Stormare as Satan. Each member of the diverse cast gives a worthy performance, but the standout here is indie film star Tilda Swinton, who plays the beatific and androgynous angel Gabriel with a delicious irony.
Tilda Swinton as Gabriel
As has often been the case with films based upon characters created by Alan Moore, Constantine became a showcase for the latest computer effects rather than focusing on the deeply flawed characters that made the books so successful. This is unfortunate, because the comics focus on quality storytelling and characterization, and not solely on visuals.

With the film's blasphemous overtones, it's no wonder that many religious groups were up in arms about the portrayal of Biblical figures. Still the film serves up about as much theological discussion as similarly ironic film RoboCop did for discussions about law enforcement and police brutality, which is fine by me. Not every film needs to take itself so seriously and Constantine doesn't.
Another flaw of the film is the direction, which feels both forced and mechanical in its execution. Directed by music video auteur Francis Lawrence, who focuses on creating a visually stunning but emotionally devoid alternate reality populated by all manner of miscreants and lost souls. If you're looking for a thought provoking film about redemption through spirituality, then Constantine will likely disappoint. But if what you seek is a fast-paced thriller with lots of action and witty dialogue, then Constantine is for you.
Constantine in Hell...
Poster Constantine Visits Hell Keanu Reeves as John Constantine Rachel Weisz as Angela Rachel Weisz as Isabel Djimon Hounsou as Papa Midnite Shia LaBeouf as Chas The cast Demon Beatific Angels should not be trusted... Tilda Swinton as Gabriel

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October 13, 2010
Yeah this was a good enough flick, it could have been so much more. Great review as always good Count.
September 23, 2010
This is a good review of a movie that really could have been so much more. It wasn't a BAD movie, it just had the potential to be a great movie, and it fell short. You do a nice job pointing out the good stuff as well as the shortfalls. I'm disappointed you didn't mention the crucifix gun, though... ;) Maybe someday someone will try this again and do it justice.
December 10, 2009
This was an interesting interpretation of the comic book, while not entirely faithful it had enough references for me to enjoy the film. (because of references to the story-arcs) I wished that they could've stucked to the real reasons why Constantine was damned rather than referencing some Catholic undertones about suicide. Still a fun, adaptation...I need to review this in the future.
February 16, 2009
This could have been so much better. It reminds me of something similar that was made for tv that WAS successful--CAST A DEADLY SPELL which took as its premise that Hollywood in early 1950s really was a magical place. Its hero was a noirish gumshoe named Phil Lovecraft. God how I wish that would come out on DVD. Until then I'll cherish my VHS.
September 23, 2010
Other than cash, what could I bribe you with to do a review of that show?
September 23, 2010
Just ship me some amphetamines. That would probably break the writer's block.
September 23, 2010
Yeah, right, like that's going to happen. You seriously think an anti-drug guy like me would do that?!
September 24, 2010
Just one? That would crank me up so good that I'd also wash the car and trim the hedges--which the association no longer bothers doing.
September 24, 2010
Nope, you'll have to master mind over matter and control your brain chemistry.
September 24, 2010
And live with the dirt.
September 24, 2010
Not sure I follow, but okay...
September 24, 2010
Meaning, I need some speed to clean up all the mess.
September 24, 2010
You may have some issues, my dear.
September 24, 2010
Ya think?
September 24, 2010
Quite often, in fact. ; )
September 24, 2010
September 24, 2010
No, I meant I think quite often. LOL! That'll teach me not to respond before reading the full context of the comment.
September 24, 2010
You mean you DIDN'T mean that as a joke?
September 24, 2010
Um... no. I just read "Ya think?" and that was my reply. Now I feel foolish.
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More Constantine reviews
Quick Tip by . February 05, 2012
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 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 . May 14, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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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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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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