Director: Francis Lawrence

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Constantine, too loosely based on the comic book Hellblazer, gives Keanu Reeves ample opportunity to prove his wooden performances in past films never reached the apex of how wooden he can be. He saunters through this film speaking in a monotone before taking new poses. All too frequently with Reeves, posing well is as much acting as he can drum up.

Tilda Swinton as the archangel Gabriel was so cool that if the film had nothing else going for it, that was enough. Anyone who has seen Gabriel in Rennaissance paintings knows that "he" was very commonly modeled by a woman. Archangels are supposedly sexless, neither male nor female, but Gabriel as angel of women's fertility traditionally leant to the feminine side of the genderless debate. So casting Hilda Tilton with her tits bound flat in a man's suit was really quite brilliant, as when she appears in wings, she really does look like a Rennaisance angel.

Gabriel also happens to be insane, as he was in Prophesy when played by Christopher Walken. The reason for this insanity is better explained in Prophesy, but not entirely clear in Constantine.

The premise roughly is the world is a gambling parlor for God & Satan wagering over souls. By the rules of this cosmic wager, neither God nor the devil can intervene directly with humanity, but both can nudge. There are half-angels & half-demons living among us maintaining a "balance" of good & evil, & any devil who breaks the rules of the game is hunted down by Constantine & dispatched straight to hell.

Constantine is something of a suicide angel. As a kid he attempted to kill himself & succeeded for two minutes, which was a lifetime in Hell. When the doctors brought him back to life, it was too late, his soul was already forfeit by one of the rules of the game God & Satan play: all suicides are won by Satan. He is permitted to live out his life as a kind of police officer maintaining the status quo of the cosmic game, but he has hopes that at some point before he is himself dispatched back to Hell that he might find a method of God's forgiveness.

The rules of the game are not well clarified, as purportedly neither God nor the Devil can visit the earth per se, but can only send their halfbreed emmisaries. Yet in the climax Satan comes to earth very easily. He's a sleezy gent, but not one to break the rules. Satan's son, however, is a malicious usurper who isn't obeying the rules of the game ata ll, is throwing off the balance, & a bunch of other stuff none of it particularluy consequential.

The CGI action doesn't too much diminish any possibility of characterization or plot, so it was better than par for the course. The story has a couple clever twists & sufficiently captivating characters. It's kind of odd that the violence is often muted or off-camera, & the only moment when a sex scene was likely to be fitted in, Constantine passes on the opportunity. The bathtub scene de rigour for such films is thus done with the girl fully clothed, which was dumber than just going ahead with the nudie sequence. The tepidity in these matters is puzzling because a film like this was going to have a Restricted rating either way.

The film was savaged by critics when in it was in the theater, & deserved the criticism. But as a DVD or video rental, its competition is direct-to-video horror cheapies. This is better than that & fully worth the two or three dollars to rent.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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