“What if I told you that God and the devil made a wager, a kind of standing bet for the souls of all mankind?”
2005. Rated R. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia Laboeuf, Max Baker, Gavin Rossdale, Peter Stormare and Tilda Swinton.
Well, being in the midst of law school finals, I haven’t actually seen a movie in the theaters in a long time, so although I wanted to see and review 21, Stop-Loss, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Iron Man, that’s going to have to wait for a couple of weeks (or in the case of the first two, probably on DVD). I also haven’t opened my new Netflix movies in a while because that commits myself to a couple of hours of not being productive.
But given that I am a pretty large procrastinator, that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen anything recently — just yesterday I decided to sit on my ass and watch some baseball and then I noticed Constantine was going to be on TV, and given that I never saw it and it’s on FX all the damn time, I thought, “why not today? Why not spend 2 hours watching a movie that’s always on when I should be studying for finals?”
Based on the comic book character of the same name (but apparently, the movie version is fairly different), Constantine is about John Constantine (J.C….hmmm) as played by Keanu Reeves, who as a child discovered that he was able to see what others couldn’t — the half-demons and half-angels that inhabit the earth to influence humans. In order to avoid going to hell for a past deed, Constantine acts as a policeman, deporting half-demons who break the rules back to hell. He crosses paths with a LAPD detective (Weisz) trying to solve the mystery of her twin sister’s suicide which she is convinced was murder and Constantine figures out is a lot more.
Obviously, the movie contains a lot of religious imagery and dogma, and despite the fact that I am not religious at all I always find that fascinating — I took a Bible as Literature class in college and it was one of my favorite classes. Even though a lot of it is ridiculous (suspension of disbelief!), it does serve to spice up a fairly standard plotline and allows director Francis Lawrence to compose some interesting shots and effects.
Lawrence, who went on to direct I Am Legend, shows his talent as the film is very visually interesting and the action sequences well-directed. The film has a cool style and was paced pretty well so there was never really a slow stretch.
Reeves is the Reeves we all know, somewhat wooden but you know what you’re getting and Weisz plays her standard feisty role. Djimon Hounsou is pretty cool as Midnite, a former friend of Constantine’s who runs a neutral club where half-breeds of both sides come and mingle. On the other hand, Shia Laboeuf is typically annoying as Constantine’s protege/sidekick. Tilda Swinton and Gavin Rossdale of Bush are well-cast as the androgynous angel Gabriel and half-demon Balthazar, respectively, while Peter Stormare makes a pretty excellent devil.
One thing I noticed, and I thought it was just my TV or maybe the broadcast is that the sound is awful. The levels were totally inconsistent and I had trouble hearing a lot of the dialogue unless I turned it way up — I checked some message boards and apparently I wasn’t the only one with this problem. I find it hard to believe a Hollywood movie would have sound mixing issues, but there you have it.
Constantine isn’t a particularly good movie, but if it’s on, and you’re already on the couch, it’s worth seeing — it’s at least better than most Hollywood action fare. That being said, I should have gotten up and gone to do some work instead, because it certainly wasn’t good enough to justify the time wasted, but that’s the way it goes.