Constantine (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/03/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 121 mins

Surprisingly enjoyable thriller, despite its awful trailer - fans of the comic book won’t be too pleased, but Constantine delivers in terms of action, effects and a smattering of brains.

You’ve got to hand it to Keanu Reeves. He’s hardly the world’s most gifted actor and has made more than his fair share of stinkers and yet, every few years he somehow manages to pick an ‘iconic’ action role that keeps his career firmly on track, whether it’s Johnny Utah in Point Break, Jack Traven in Speed or Neo in The Matrix. At any rate, with Constantine, Reeves has done it again and, as comic book movies go, it’s a lot better than it had any right to be.

Film Adapted From The Graphic Novels

The film is adapted from the HellBlazer series by William Simpson and Garth Ennis. Keanu stars as John Constantine, a chain-smoking demon-slayer whose unconventional method of exorcism involves tricking a demon into a mirror and then chucking the mirror out of the window.

Constantine is doubly cursed, first because he has always been able to see the “half-breed” demons and angels that walk the earth, and second because he’s dying of lung cancer, thanks to having smoked 60 a day since he turned 13. He’s already been to Hell once, due to a failed suicide attempt, and his demon-slaying antics are a bid to get him back into God’s good books.

With the cancer getting worse, Constantine’s time is running out, so he’s initially reluctant to help sceptical police detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) investigate the suicide of her twin sister. However, when the various L.A. demons start to get a little bolder than usual, Constantine discovers there may be more at stake than he thought…

If you’ve seen the awful trailer for Constantine you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s one of those movies with lots of swirly CGI demons going “GRRRR!” every five minutes. Thankfully, it’s a lot better than that and the CGI work on the demons themselves is actually pretty good (particularly on the Insect Demon, an early highlight), even if the depiction of Hell lacks invention and looks like it was knocked up in five minutes.

Occasionally Confusing But Never Dull

If there’s one thing Reeves has - at least in the right movie - it’s screen presence and Constantine uses that to full advantage, wisely deciding not to give him all that many lines. He’s also very good at stomping around and looking pissed off, which he gets to do a lot here. In addition, the film refreshingly manages to resist turning co-star Rachel Weisz into a full-on love interest.

The supporting cast are extremely good, particularly Djimon Hounsou as Midnite (a sort of underworld nightclub owner); Tilda Swinton as The Angel Gabriel with a mean streak; Shia LeBeouf (from Holes) as Constantine’s loyal sidekick and, best of all, Peter Stormare in a bright white suit as the Devil himself.

Constantine may be a little confusing at times but there’s an exciting set-piece every few minutes and Lawrence directs with energy, humour and an amusing eye for bizarre details - such as the fact that Hell can be accessed via the judicious use of a cat and a puddle. (Don’t ask). It also has several pleasingly off-the-wall moments.

Constantine is a lot of fun, though you may want to steer clear if you’re a devotee of the comics. If you do decide to see it, make sure you stick around until the credits end; there’s an additional scene that was initially intended to be the final scene of the film. Recommended.

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Content updated: 21/05/2019 18:52

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