Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare
Returning to hell to meet a loved one is nothing but a piece of cake. You will only need a tub of water and you should be able to focus very well. Oh, and you would need the experienced and eccentric exorcist John Constantine to help you out along the way. Switching between Hell, Purgatory and Earth has become more than a habit for this fairly young exorcist as his unusual methods of sending back tons of demons to the depths of hell is nothing compared to the real danger of his cigarette addiction. Father Merrin from The Exorcist would not approve at all: you either love Constantine or you hate it. There’s no way out.
Based on the DC-Vertigo comic book Hellblazer and similar to 1995’s The Prophecy, the movie stars Keanu Reeves as the anti-hero John Constantine. He has been regularly doing exorcisms ‘by hand’ with a modern touch. For example, he’s got Christian symbols engraved in his brass knucks and moreover uses a shotgun loaded with holy water. Just like other exorcists, Constantines has his own reasons for fighting against the forces of hell. When Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help, the two get tangled up in a scheme darker than they’d expected it to be.
According to various sources including IMDb.com, Constantine belongs to the horror and fantasy genre. However, the movie is more of a thriller, a theological one more or less, as it features two people solving a mysterious crime which is obviously related to the supernatural. What Constantine seeks is simply redemption. This is what all theological thrillers have in common: the main character being after something important to him or her forms the fundamental core of the storyline. Nevertheless, the movie manages to steer clear of following a depressed protagonist and instead fills up the seriously toned scenes with comical and even romantic lines. This makes the action scenes as well as the dialogue exchanges interesting to follow.
Satan: Sonny, I’ve got a whole theme park full of red delights for you.
John Constantine: Aren’t you a peach?
Keanu Reeves as Constantine is a remarkable choice. Not exactly known for his thespian skills, debuting director Francis Lawrence (I am Legend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) could use a big star to create some positive buzz around the movie. I must admit that I am a true fan of Reeves, so my assessment may be somewhat bias. However, I found his portrayal of John Constantine surprisingly good even though his character differs a lot from the original comic book hero. His acting can arguably be considered rusty in some of the scenes, but I believe it fits his character extremely well. Also worth mentioning is Lucifer, or as his friends call him ‘Lou’, who was played by Swedish actor Peter Stormare (Fargo). Both charismatic actors are ideal for effects-heavy movies like this one, especially Reeves. The rest of the cast features big Hollywood names, but the limited performances don’t make actors like Shia LaBeouf or Rachel Weisz particularly stand out. Djimon Hounsou ultimately steals the show with one of his few scenes.
The movie did a great job in the visual effects department (for 2005). Hell looked like a real hell (LOL) and the technique of slowmotion made everything even creepier. Noticeably, Constantine consciously chooses for an ending scene that features an exchange of words instead of throwing punches. Cinematically, the movie looks like a real mess, but for regular moviegoers this should be of no concern. Constantine is and stays ‘a guilty pleasure’ and is the definition of a solid rental. Make sure to watch through the credits!