Constantine ★★★

Constantine is the film adaptation of DC Comics' Hellblazer comic book of the same name. Set in Los Angeles we follow John Constantine, chain-smoking cynic who has the ability to see the true form of half-angels and half-demons on the human plane. After Constantine exorcises a girl possessed by a demon trying to break through from hell into the human plane, he believes something bad is coming. Meanwhile Detective Angela Dodson arrives at his doorstep, hoping to help assist in the case of her sisters suicide. She believes that her twin sister Isabel, a devout Roman Catholic, wouldn't kill herself and wants Constantine's help in the investigation to see if a supernatural force was involved. As they look into it, certain occurrences and events place the two of them on a desperate attempt to save humanity from evil.

This was Francis Lawrence's first step into filmmaking for the big screen after years of shooting music videos for Whitney Houston, Shakira, Aerosmith, Justin Timberlake and Destiny's Child to name a few. The film is stylishly shot, with some lovely cinematography work from Phillippe Rousselot, particularly in the first act with how the exorcism scene is shot, along with the fall of Isabel from the top roof of the psychiatric hospital into the pool below. The films interpretation of hell is something that I always liked when it first watched it way back in 2005, which was based on old footage of nuclear tests, specifically of the aftermath of houses being hit by the sudden shockwave after the blast, and the crumbling landscape as Constantine wanders through Hell. The practical stunts mixed with special effects are also a major positive of the film (particularly the scene in which Angela is being pulled by a supernatural force through walls, desk s etc. as Constantine chases after her). I thought that Reeves and Weisz worked well on screen together as they investigate Isabel's suicide, with Weisz showing more range as her eyes are open to a world that she shut out from her mind since childhood and how it is now coming back to haunt her. Of the supporting cast, Tilda Swinton is really good as Gabriel, a half-breed Angel that Constantine talks to and of course, Peter Stormare as Lucifer who loathes Constantine so much that his soul is the only one he would ever come to personally collect. The fact that Stormare stated in an interview last year that the costume design for Lucifer (the white linen suit and tar on feet) was his idea that won other the original pitch (blue jeans, spiked god collar, bare-chest with tattoos on including face) makes me like that his idea won out. 

In terms of focusing on the source material, Constantine was then touted as being a not so faithful adaptation, and after looking back on it now after the television series and portrayal of the character by Matt Ryan, you can't shake how the film adaptation treated the character. Primarily the changing of his nationality irked the die hard fans, then looking into behind the scenes you find out that the original script retained his nationality but got no response from producers, so the screenwriter changed him to American and the script suddenly gained attention....Hollywood in a nutshell you say? As far as Keanu Reeves performance as John Constantine? Well, it's a Keanu performance you'd expect, suiting the sarcastic nature of the character but overall he's miscast in the role. While there's a talented cast involved in the supporting roles, I can't help but feel that you could've and should've had more of Tilda Swinton and Djimon Hounsou on screen as Gabriel and Papa Midnite. The film does feel like it had to water-down the material of John Constantine for mainstream audiences, until we get to the final fifteen minutes of the film which makes it worthwhile viewing for me personally. Shia LaBeouf is there also as Constantine's driver/apprentice and he basically has nothing else to work with here other than adding a few wise cracks here and there. 

As a faithful adaptation of the source material, it won't win many fans over but, as a big screen fantasy noir it still pretty decent. Granted there was more potential here than they realised, the film still looks good today thanks to Phillippe Rousselot's camerawork and the visual effects on display. It's a decent directorial feature debut from Francis Lawrence before he went on to do the Hunger Games sequels, with good supporting performances from Weisz, Swinton and Stormare. Unfortunately I couldn't buy Keanu Reeves then and after seeing Matt Ryan's portrayal of the same character in the DCTV universe, I definitely still don't but it now.

Eamonn liked this review