Constantine (2005)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 2/18/05
Visual Effects: Stan Winston, Phil Tippett
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz

Rachel Weisz with a gun. Enough said. But if you want to keep reading...

Holy hellfire, what a surprise! It's not very often that I leave a movie with a bounce in my step and a big cheezy grin on my face, but "Constantine" did just that. And if I had seen this when I was sixteen, it might have changed my life forever. "Constantine" is based on the Vertigo comic book "Hellblazer," and not having read the source material, I can't comment on its faithfulness. However, the word is that it takes a lot of liberties and is a kinder, gentler take on the characters. As someone with no expectations and based on its own merits, I thought it was an awesome, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that kept me riveted from start to finish.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a detective who specializes in the occult, spending most of his time deporting illegally immigrating demons back to hell. He's an asshole with a bad attitude and a huge chip on his shoulder. Something big is brewing in hell, and more demons are trying to break into the physical plane, which concerns Constantine greatly. These unusual events are tied to the death of Angela Dodson's sister (yummy Rachel Weisz in a dual role), and after a rocky start the two of them start working together to prevent the birth of the Anti-Christ.

Visually, the film is astonishing. The visualizations of hell are compelling and mesmerizing, and the overall gothic design is beautiful. The music score is also compelling, but appropriately subdued. Keanu Reeves does a fine job as Constantine, although it's hard to shake his Neo persona from "The Matrix" (1999). On the other hand, Rachel Weisz is awe-inspiring, giving an incredible performance that's far better than the film probably deserves. AND, she carries a gun, much to my endless glee. The film rightly belongs to her and her presence is utterly intoxicating. She's incredibly sexy, full of pain and conviction, and her combination of strength and vulnerability is pure perfection. And those soulful eyes! Ms. Weisz, my unworthy heart belongs to you...

Apart from some cheezy dialog and some questionable characterizations, the only thing that spoiled my total enjoyment of the film was the audience. From what I could tell, about half the people in the audience found the movie confusing and difficult to follow, while the other half were morally offended by its juxtaposition of Catholicism and the occult. Unfortunately, the film is going to generate a lot of criticism from theologically sensitive viewers (i.e. Jesus freaks), as I witnessed several loud arguments break out at the end of the film about heaven, hell, faith, righteousness, redemption, damnation, and Catholic mythology in general. Come on people, it's just a movie, not a religious treatise. And a comic book movie at that. It never ceases to amaze and disgust me, how uptight, closed minded, and hypocritical Judeo-Christians can be. For a faith supposedly based on love and forgiveness, why is there so much hate and intolerance in its ranks?