F*cking cool. There, I said it. In our all too politically correct world these are my words of choice to describe "Constantine," the moody cinematic adaptation of the DC/Vertigo comic "Hellblazer." The film is deeply stemmed in Catholic mythology and all things occult because that's the source material. We are talking about Earth becoming a battlefield between dominions of Heaven and Hell fighting for the fate of – what else – men's souls. As dutiful reporter of films, consider that as my warning to those who may find such talk heresy. But I am compelled to ask – why should there be shame or guilt (dare I say resentment) in indulging some harmless irreverent fun even if it has to come at the expense of religious dogma? Well, since you've come this far in my review then also find solace in the fact that "Constantine" is slight. It's a film of little consequence that has been designed to one end: entertain. And at that it succeeds quite admirably. That's the money folks. Not the controversy over the alleged descecration of the sacred word. Not even Keanu Reeves' infamous art of non-acting. Whoa!
Reeves plays John Constantine, an exorcist, fearless hunter of demons. From an early age he has been able to see them as well as angels who walk amongst mankind. These visions eventually caused him to attempt suicide. He was resuscitated after two minutes, but since he was technically dead by suicide, a mortal sin in the Catholicism, his soul is destined for hell. As John is walking miserably through his cul-de-sac, he bumps into Angela (Rachel Weisz,) a beautiful and very Catholic police detective seeking answers about her twin sister's bizarre death. As their lives intertwine, they try to solve a dark mystery and, you know, save the world. That's probably all you should know or may be all I am "allowed" to say in my present residence.
The real star of the film is Francis Lawrence, music video maestro. Representing what I like to call the geek kids on the Hollywood block (others include Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and hopefully soon-to-jump-onto-the-bandwagon Chris Cunningham) Lawrence has made a very auspicious directorial debut with "Constantine." He manages to induce the film's proceedings with his maniacal talent with the camera but without overwhelming the story or over-lubricating the obvious technical pizzazz. Some may take objection to the audacious depiction of hell (the film version of the underworld is an ever-burning, desolate LA) and I have to say it's justified. Although I see why it is clever, this bombastic scenery does build an unnecessary contrast to the moody, austere environment of John Constantine's living world (you will say that's the point but I will respond by asking you to see the film again).
What I found particularly delicious (besides Rachel Weisz) was "Constantine's" meticulous attempts to not give into self-importance. This does let us accept it on its own terms as a fantasy-adventure. The film will find its takers vastly among genre fans who adore Joss Whedon's sharp "Angel," and others who appreciate the aesthetic look of a film more than plot development. Overall, "Constantine" is a little silly but offers us a very harmonic group of cool characters and a solid blend of computer-generated special effects. - Adnan Khan