3/9/05 As I sat staring at the screen, watching "Constantine", come to an end, I couldn't help but smile. Not because the film was just that brilliant, but rather it was that big of a train wreck.
This seems to be the time of year in which every studio agrees with one another to release their worst movies. So, I've spent the first two months of 2005 catching up on some of the Oscar nominees and other good films I missed from 2004. I passed up an advanced screening of "Robots" to go see "Constantine" at the theater with some friends. Sadly, this was probably the best choice out of everything playing at the theater, with the exception of "Million Dollar Baby".
Before I go into more detail on my opinions, let me preface by saying that I have never read the "Hellblazer" comic book(s) that this movie was supposedly based on. This review is a critique on the acting, directing, screenplay, etc of the movie, and it likely doesn't apply to the comic.
I'm not sure where to begin in recounting the plot of "Constantine". Keanu Reeves plays John Constantine, a combination supernatural detective and exorcist who is on the verge of dying of lung cancer from smoking, and is a complete jerk to anyone he meets. Rachel Weisz plays Angela Dodson, a detective who wants answers as to why her twin sister committed suicide. Through Constantine, she learns the truth about Heaven and Hell; Demons and Angels live on Earth in alternate space/time planes, always trying to win our souls. There's also shots mixed in every now and then of a random Hispanic guy wandering around Mexico and California with a staff that makes him invincible. This has something to do with the story, I think. Together they fight evil in a world where nothing ever makes any sense, and where Satan is a good guy who would never want to upset the balance of good and evil. It all comes tightly wrapped up with cliché after cliché and dialog so cheesy you will laugh out loud, and every now and then it transforms into "The Matrix".
Keanu Reeves is Keanu Reeves. We all know him, and we're all familiar with the standard roles he is cast in. This one is no different. He takes an unlikeable character and makes him even worse by being as dull and unemotional as possible. Tilda Swinton as Gabriel is just plain awkward, and the only somewhat redeeming bit of acting in this film is Rachel Weisz, who really isn't half bad.
This was Francis Lawrence's first try at directing a movie, and you'll know when you watch it. The root word in 'director' of course is 'direction', which was something this movie had none of. It was really no different than watching one of Lawrence's Britney Spears or Will Smith videos; just a bunch of random images thrown together. Characters came and went with no explanation of their relevance to the film, and there was no flow at all.
Visually, they got some things right. But how hard is that in these days when the right amount of money can make any effect you want? The depictions of Hell, Heaven, Demons, and Angels were good, and I suppose the Matrix style stuff was done well, even if it was unnecessary.
Overall, "Constantine" had a good concept. Appeal to those who want intelligence in a movie with religious theories and random babble. Appeal to those who want mindless action and dazzling effects by giving them just that. But in the end, there wasn't enough action to keep that segment of the audience's attention, and the depth the film supposedly had never showed up. It will have you trying hard to figure it all out, but I'm not so sure even the film's creators ever figured it out. There are certainly many movie out now that you could go see that would be much worse than "Constantine", but much of this film was nothing short of a disaster.
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