Sunday, March 11, 2012

Constantine (2005)

       Released in early 2005, Constantine (based on the DC/Vertigo comics series Hellblazer) stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, a man who is able to see half-demons and half-angels in their true form. The film was directed by Francis Lawrence and also stars Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djumon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare.

       The plot concerns the death of Isabel Dodson, Angela Dodson's (Weisz) twin sister. Ruled a suicide, she refuses to accept this conclusion and seeks to find answers. She eventually ends up at the doorstep of John Constantine (Reeves), a chain-smoking, demon-hunting cynic who has problems of his own. He decides to help her, seeing that she's in more danger than she or he would have ever assumed. The dynamic between the two actors is very enjoyable and very well done. Weisz plays her role convincingly, as does LaBeouf as Constantine's sidekick Chas. Hounsou does a great job in the role of "Papa" Midnite, a type of witch doctor who stays neutral in the fight against Heaven and Hell (he also runs a bar where half-demons and half-angels hang out). Baker and Rossdale have very (very) enjoyable roles, with Stormare being the standout co-star as the-one-and-only Satan. There is also, of course, Swinton who plays the androgynous archangel Gabriel; she doesn't get a lot of screen time, so all I can really say is: she does a pretty good job, so no real complaints to bring up.

       However, the one actor who impressed me most and entertained me most was Reeves himself. I always think that a guy in a coat and tie (who smokes cigarettes, no less) is pretty bad ass, but Reeves actually makes this character his own. Plenty of people think Reeves is anything but a decent actor, but in Constantine, he really puts himself in the role of a guy who's lost all faith in things involving Heaven and Hell. His attitude and personality are all done with ease and naturalism, making the performance the highlight/standout of this whole movie. The Keanu who has the accent and mannerisms of a pot head surfer where no where to be found in this film, and I was all the more pleased for it. The role of John Constantine requires a seriousness and sense of humor that Reeves manages to balance like a professional.

       This was Francis Lawrence's debut feature film, and he does an incredible job. The camera angles and movements are all done very, very well. Being shot and shown in anamorphic, Lawrence knows how to utilize his widescreen for moments of spectacle, intimacy, and general space. The visual effects are really good, not succumbing to the ol' I-know-it's-CGI problem I tend to personally have when I see a film that uses CGI frequently; sure, I might know it's CGI or whatever, but in Constantine I was pleasantly impressed and pleased with what I saw, sometimes wondering how they pulled off some of the effects. Something else to note is the score: it's nothing special, but works well in the context of the film -- but like I said, nothing special (sorry to say). However, just because it's "nothing special" doesn't mean it isn't good or doesn't fit the film's mood; it's just not memorable is all.

       Constantine succeeds in being a nice hybrid of horror and action, while also throwing in some interesting religious info, practices, and cool action scenes, as well as some great demonic set pieces. The acting is great by all involved, with Reeves and Stormare being the standouts. The effects and direction are great as well, with only the score being less than impressive. Constantine is no where near perfect or excellent, but it still manages to be fun and entertaining on different levels, and should definitely be taken for what it is: a (silly) fantasy movie and not merely a comic book adaption. In my opinion, Reeve's performance is what really makes this movie good and worth seeing.

It is called Constantine after all.