R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Francis Lawrence
scr Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello
with Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Tilda Swinton, Gavin Rossdale, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Peter Stormare, Jose Zuniga, Francis Guinan, Jesse Ramirez
release US 18.Feb.05,
UK 18.Mar.05
05/US Warners 2h01

Bump in the night: Weisz and Reeves

reeves weisz hounsou

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Constantine There's a stylish energy that sustains this film even when it begins to drift into draggy incoherence. But it plays to Keanu's strengths as a screen presence, has enough detail and humour to keep us entertained, and glosses over its inconsistencies with visual enthusiasm.

John Constantine (Reeves) is a troubled man. If it weren't enough that he's smoking himself to death, he has a terrible "gift" that allows him to see the world of angels and demons--and to send disobedient demons back where they belong. Then he meets Angela (Weisz), another tortured soul whose twin sister has just committed suicide. Or has she? Together John and Angela discover a battle waging for the human soul, and set out to do something about it.

It's always nice to see a film that dares to tackle spiritual subject matter, even if it's treated like an excuse for Matrix-like alternate-reality action set pieces. This is jam-packed with intriguing ideas and nutty theories that make it pleasingly brainy, even if the script (and more glaringly the editing) constantly throw any sense of story logic out in lieu of putting something deeply cool-looking up on the screen. It's almost like the dialog doesn't really matter, as key lines of plot exposition are completely muffled.

Reeves is of course great at this kind of thing--brooding, measured, maintaining a sardonic distance and elegantly gliding through the action like a dancer. Weisz and LaBeouf are fine in the thankless roles as, respectively, the sceptical woman in distress and the clueless sidekick who's more than he seems. While it's Swinton (as an angel), Rossdale (a demon) and Stormare (the devil himself) who have the most fun. And Hounsou is also terrific as a kind of gatekeeper to the underworld. Or at least an underworld nightclub. Or something.

In the end, you wish the filmmakers had bothered to clarify what the, quite literally, hell is actually going on here. Despite feeling far too long, it's so underexplained and vague that no matter how great it looks, or how fascinating the characters and situations are, we always feel like outsiders looking in.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 23.Feb.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Constantine IndigoJen, Los Angeles: "Do I smell Oscar buzz? Um, no. On the positive side, this is the type of role Keanu does best - not too much dialogue but a strong presence. The film is kind of a mess - it veers towards the Bond movies with all of his 'anti-demon gadgets', towards comedy with his goofy sidekick (Shia LaBeouf), towards (contrived) romance with Rachel Weisz, religious thriller with Satan & the archangel Gabriel, themes of redemption, and an interesting hell's version of the Bible, and finally, action flick, as he does battle with the demons in several encounters. The story itself was convoluted, but the action was well done. The whole movie was very cool-looking and, well, Keanu certainly is a presence." (22.Feb.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall