Constantine seems like such an evil undertaking on so many levels.
First, it's a comic book movie not released in the summer, where comic book movies belong. Instead, it's been flung into the February purgatory of action films that don't quite make the cut. Second, not only is Francis Lawrence a debut director, but his name sounds like a monk's and that doesn't seem right. And finally, the title character is played by Keanu Reeves, the one and only king of "whoa," and he's presumably reviving Neo for the fourth time, because the Wachowski Brothers ran out of Matrices and what else is he going to do?
Films about the occult have earned little but eternal damnation since The Exorcist, and while it won't find a spot in film heaven, Constantine has enough pizzazz to at least be on Satan's good side?and keep us entertained while it lingers on the screens. There's no divine inspiration, but it's a hell of a good time.
The story is predictable enough. When her psychic twin sister kills herself by jumping off a big tall building in her nightgown, cop Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) consults John Constantine, an irreverent cop of the occult who sends misbehaved demons straight to hell. But as the two dig deeper into the mystery, they discover that demons are plotting to (well duh) take over the world.
Of all the things that contribute to the general awesomeness of this movie, the coolest is its sense of style. Hell is a vast wasteland of burning skyscrapers. Satan (Peter Stormare) wears off-white and walks in tar. The androgynous angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) has a British accent and sports a haircut out of the pages of Vogue couture. Overall, it's probably best described as apocalyptic corporate chic.
Speaking of things apocalyptic, though his performance wasn't enough to dispel my loathing?because he is so, so very bad (see Devil's Advocate and Sweet November. That should be plenty)?there's no use denying that Keanu makes a good Constantine. Sure, the original character in the comic book was blond and British, but Keanu's at least good at looking interesting. After all, the reason he's so good at playing closed, dispassionate characters is because he is a closed, dispassionate actor. When you're fighting apocalypse by robots or demons, through, it comes off as intriguing; but when you're making small talk at a Hollywood party, it's probably creepy.
Constantine's coolness saves Keanu, but Angela is so whiny and gross that Weisz doesn't stand a chance. So she's caught in the crossfire of an eternal war between heaven and hell and feels all guilty about her sister and their childhood and blah-di-blah-di-blah. Cry about it. We don't care; pick up the blowtorch and give us more demon blood, or whatever it is. It's when Constantine tries to sneak in emotional significance in the middle of all the fun and excitement that things get annoying, and no one is more guilty than our weak little femme. She's no Trinity; Keanu should have dropped her like a scorching hot devil's fork and gone on alone, but it turns out she's kind of an essential ingredient in hell's plot to take over the world, so he's got to take it.
The Missus's upper-body wardrobe follows the first rule of female garb in male-drive action films: "white, open, and wet." An added bonus is the black bra that can't help but peek over (it doesn't have far to go) and see what all the fuss is about. There are not a whole lot of outdoor rain scenes, but luckily, water is a conduit to the netherworld. That means bathtubs and pools and no time for a bathing suit. Darn.
All in all, Constantine is not heaven sent, but it's not a sin to like it.