Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: "Constantine" is No Hellblazer

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Constantine (2005)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for violence and demonic images
DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
WRITERS: Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello; from a story by Kevin Brodbin (based upon the characters from the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer graphic novels)
PRODUCERS: Lauren Shuler Donner, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan, Erwin Stoff, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Akiva Goldsman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot, A.F.C./A.S.C.
EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman, A.C.E.

HORROR/FANTASY/ACTION with elements of thriller

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin (McGregor) Rossdale, Jessie Ramirez, Jose Zuniga, Laz Alonso, Quinn Buniel, and Peter Stormare

In the mid 1980’s famed comic book writer Alan Moore created, at the behest of his artist collaborators, a character for their comic book series, Swamp Thing (that changed the face of mainstream or superhero comics), that would look like Sting, front man of the rock group, The Police. Two decades later, Keanu Reeves, not Sting, has brought the character, John Constantine, to cinematic life in the film, Constantine.

Back story: John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift he didn’t want – the ability to recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin. Constantine took his own life to end the torment of his visions, but he was resuscitated against his will. Constantine returned with the ability to walk the earthly border between Heaven and Hell. He attempts to earn his salvation as an exorcist/supernatural detective sending the half-breed demons back to hell. Still, Constantine is no saint; he lives a hard life of drinking and smoking too much while he tries to buy his way into heaven.

Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) is a skeptical police detective, really not buying all this occult mumbo jumbo, but she needs Constantine. Her sister, Isabel (Ms. Weisz), may have committed suicide. Angela finds that hard to believe because her sister was a devout Catholic, and devout Catholics know that suicides go straight to the inferno of hell. Angela convinces Constantine to help her, but their investigation quickly clears away Angela’s skepticism as their examination of the crime takes them to the world of angels and demons just behind the walls, on the other side of the metaphorical windows, and beneath the landscape of Los Angeles. The duo is caught in a series of catastrophic occult and satanic events that may not only cost them their lives, but the souls of all human kind.

If Keanu Reeves were a better actor, Constantine would have been a better film. First, we, the people who are familiar with the comic book, have to get over the fact that there were better actors to play the part. We may have been willing to accept that the character was changed from a Brit to an American, but Keanu? He has his moments, but most of them are in the last act. It’s not as if he were out acted; the rest of the characters seem extraneous, even the ones that are supposed to be important to the plot.

The story, which borrows heavily from the work of two early writers on the Constantine comic book (called Hellblazer), Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis, is conceptually interesting. The execution leaves something to be desired. Sometimes, it’s just pretentious, and sometimes, the occult angle is as good and as intriguing as the occult was in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The visualization of Hell (as a still-burning post-apocalyptic cityscape) is nice, but ultimately the script is just a hodge podge of concepts and ideas that are poorly thought out and used. It’s as if some things were added because they’d seem cool, but they were poorly used or just didn’t make sense in the context of the script. The writers seemingly knew how they wanted the film to begin and end, but only threw crap against the wall in between that.

Actually, director Francis Lawrence (known for his music videos for acts such as Britney Spears and Will Smith) gives the film a good pace and a tense atmosphere of dread. He manages to make something out of a poor script and Keanu’s monotone and flat speaking/acting style. It’s enough to make this worth renting for fans of horror and fantasy.

5 of 10



No comments:

Post a Comment