2005Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf
f heaven and hell exist, they’re right here on earth.” That’s what my grandma always used to say. “Where else is there more suffering? Or more joy?” I’m inclined to agree with that sentiment, and what’s more is I rather like it. It appeals to both my cynical penchant for bleak negativity, as well as that shy little glimmer of optimism that I don’t want to admit exists in me. That saying was her way of cutting through the bullshit and hypocrisy of religion and human nature. It was her way of reminding us all that redemption wasn’t something we should be saving up for, it was something we should be striving to achieve every day.
Hell is around every corner. It’s something indiscriminate that can happen to anyone at any time, something terrible you have to wade through so that you can better measure happiness. Alternately, Heaven is something we constantly work to create – for ourselves and for other people. Heaven is a state you can decide to live in now, not some club you hope you weren’t too much of an asshole to gain membership into after you die.
"Dude, I'm like, totally troubled..."
I miss my grandma. She was brilliant. In fact, I wish final approval for Constantine could have been run by my grandma, because I could see her looking up from the treatment and offering another of her favorite sayings: “Your reach exceeds your grasp.”
Constantine, muddled mess that it is, is based on the Hellblazer comic series by Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis. John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a sort of supernatural judge, jury and executioner. He’s a former suicide who, after a brief stint in Hell, was sent back to earth to keep an eye on the demons and angels who live among us, making sure that they don’t exert too strong an influence on human destiny. When these beings begin stepping out of line more and more frequently, Constantine uncovers a wager between Heaven and Hell for the souls of humanity. There are other things going on, lots and lots of other things, but the whole movie got so damn convoluted I stopped caring and started doing terrible things like mentally re-casting the leads and trying to focus on the things that didn’t suck.
Now, I haven’t read the comic, but I can only assume that those who have are at least twice as pissed off as I am, because I felt robbed of the opportunity to see a great movie. What I got instead were several cool ingredients for a great movie dragged down by too many subplots and a pair of leads (Reeves and Weisz) that can only be described as wooden and bored. I’m told that the “real” John Constantine is a tall, skinny, blonde Englishman with a vicious wit. So whose idea was it to cast Keanu Reeves, who, correct me if I’m wrong, merely meets the requirement “tall”? He mumbles his way through dialogue that sounds corny as hell coming from him, shrugging and slouching through a dark, sleek landscape that upstages him at every turn.
The coolest Slayer video you never saw...
And speaking of upstaged, how about a supporting cast so outrageously great that, really, they should be suing Reeves and Weisz for sucking so horribly in their glorious proximity? Djimon Hounsou as Midnite is so cool it’s criminal, and Tilda Swinton’s archangel Gabriel is so petty, conniving and jealous that I fear my big, girly crush on her has reached critical mass. Finally, Peter Stormare’s Satan is so perfectly, deliciously crazy-ass that its no wonder they saved him for the last few frames because he is the only thing about this film and its ending that is definitely worth the wait.
Constantine has just enough good in it to remind you that its letting you down in a big way. If that isn’t a little bit of Hell on earth then I don’t know what is.
By: Jen Cameron
Published on: 2005-03-21