Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Review of Constantine (2005)

Written by Kevin Brodbin And Frank A. Cappello
Directed by Francis Lewis

Lucifer: "Hello, John. John, hello. You're the one soul I would come up here to collect myself."
John Constantine: "So I've heard."

Over the course of this year, I've gotten a little more into the character of John Constantine than before. I've read some of the comics (more the New 52 ones), got an action figure, watched NBC's short lived but entertaining version of the character, caught the Arrow episode he appeared in and of course, decided to rewatch the movie that had Keanu Reeves himself in the role.

Coming out a few months before Batman Begins, this 2005 adaptation of the Hellblazer himself is actually a pretty solid adaptation. Considering that some of Alan Moore's previous creations haven't always gotten satisfactory big screen offerings, this felt consistent enough to what the comics have done (pulling in two essential arcs while telling a standalone story) and then there's the leading man himself.

I'll admit that unlike Matt Ryan in the recent television series, Keanu Reeves doesn't look, sound or dress the part of exorcist, petty dabbler and conman John Constantine but he certainly inhabited the role convincingly enough, portraying him as a cynical, lonely-ish figure doing his best to get to heaven by actually helping those in general.

The person in need for the movie turned out to be Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) whose twin sister, Isabelle had psychic powers and ended up killing herself and getting a ticket into hell. I have to admit that in some parts, Angela felt like a stand in for some of the other female characters from the Hellblazer comics but I did like the character and I really liked that while the movie alluded to an attraction between her and Constantine, they actually avoided an onscreen romance between the pair.

While Reeves is undoubtedly great in the lead role, there are others who slightly out stage him though. The obvious candidate being Peter Stormare's depiction of Lucifer himself during the movie's climax while Gavin Rossdale added some slimy appeal to Balthazar - both of whom seemed a little keen on exercising control over John and the fight for his soul and so on.

There's also a notable performance from Djimon Hounsou as the neutral Papa Midnite and the more said about Tilda Swinton's depiction of the androgynous angel Gabriel, the better. Shia LaBeouf is pretty decent as Chas but he's given too little screen time to really make an impact in spite of an excellent death scene itself.

The movie's use of the spear of destiny along with it's depiction of hell is surprisingly effective as is it's depiction shot of heaven too. Overall, the movie certainly has some nice moments of horror, solid and engaging performances from the lead characters and the fact that a sequel hasn't materialised over the year has maybe helped added to giving the movie a bit more of a cult status too.

- In the Arrow universe, Lucifer himself went on to play Count Vertigo. Maybe he'll get to meet the other version of Constantine at some point, yeah?
- The movie originally was meant to be called Hellblazer but was changed to avoid confusion. It was also meant to be released in September 2004 but was delayed for February 2005.
- You didn't miss the post credit sequence, did you? I did on original viewing. However I didn't prior to this review though.
- The movie used Ravenscar for Dodson's sister as well as alluding to John trying to commit suicide himself and being damned as a result.

As a regular horror movie, I think Constantine did hit enough effective notes and even as a comic book series being adapted for the big screen, it's a lot better than expected. While it would've nicer had Keanu Reeves really embraced the role like the series would later do, he does lead the whole thing pretty well and there's plenty worth recommending with it too. It's an underrated enough gem.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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