Constantine ★★★★

God’s a kid with an ant farm lady. He’s not planning anything.”

I remember being pretty nonplussed about this film when I saw it theatrically by myself back in 2005. But I’ve kept being drawn back to it ever since, rewatching it every 3-5 years. Those years have been incredibly kind to this exceptionally stylish and darkly beautiful film. 

You know those certain scenes in movies that just stick with you to a disproportionate degree? One such scene resides in this film for me. Where Pruitt Taylor Vince, portraying an alcoholic priest, rushes into a liquor store and begins downing bottles of booze in a vain attempt to drown out demonic voices. But evil old Gavin Rossdale has placed an enchantment on him, deceiving his eyes into believing no alcohol is coming out of the bottles. 

Of course it actually is, and this sad, doomed priest literally drowns himself with spirits in under a minute. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I can’t count how many times I’ve passed by liquor stores and thought about that scene, especially since getting sober. I passed by the LQ in Target after acquiring groceries and felt a sudden urge to run in there and recreate that scene just last night. 

Instead I came home and watched Constantine. 

The first thing one notices watching this, apart from how on point the style is (man was Francis Lawrence trying to make an impression with this film), is how this is probably Keanu’s best performance. He’s surprisingly good playing against type, a surly dickhead instead of an affable doofus. He’s actually quite funny here and just plain cool. It’s a good look on him and one I wish he could have tried on at least a few more times if the box office returns were better. 

He also has really strong chemistry with Rachel Weiss. She’s great in this as well, as is the entirety of the eclectic, rad-as-fuck cast. Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Honsou, The aforementioned PTV, the goddess Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare and a shockingly great Gavin Rossdale. This is low key one of the best cast films of all time and sadly never gets recognized as such. 

The effects are all pretty badass and Francis Lawrence shoots them brilliantly, making their usage about the emotion and esthetic they evoke instead of misguidedly striving for verisimilitude. The sound design rules on this as well, with really cool use of the surround channels and some impressive LFE response. I haven’t seen this since I got my new receiver and reconfigured my speakers and it’s a revelation. 

It does get a bit long in the tooth, wearing out its welcome a tad by the end. But honestly I don’t know what fat I’d cut to trim the runtime. It’d also be nice if there were some headier themes than “demons are bad and god works in mysterious ways”, cause honestly that’s all this flick’s got up its sleeve. 

But all that can be forgiven for how weird and morbid and unique the conclusion is. Just a very strange series of events to end a CGI heavy comic book adaptation on. Maybe one day we’ll get another live action big screen take on this character. I’d enthusiastically welcome that as he’s got limitless potential. But I’ll always appreciate this strange little anomalous film. It’s beautifully assembled and strange as hell. I’d love to see more R rated horrorific comic book adaptations like this.

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