Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Constantine (2005)


Not a bad film, and extremely well cast. 

Keanu Reeves is (of course) the resigned, world-weary hero with a limited range of facial expressions and Nothing to Lose; Rachel Weisz is the improbably-beautiful-yet-hard-boiled cop with a Special Talent (and a dead sister).  However, the real casting genius is in the supporting actors--Tilda Swinton as the androgynous angel Gabriel, Gavin Rossdale as the slimily debonair demon Balthazar, perpetual crazy man Pruitt Taylor Vince as an alcoholic priest who can hear the dead, Djimon Hounsou as the now-neutral ex-witch doctor, Shia LaBeouf as Reeves' wide-eyed and eager apprentice, and the always delectable Peter Stormare as Lucifer himself. 

The story is decent enough--Constantine (Reeves) has a rep for sending demons back to hell (a la the Winchester brothers), and Angela (Weisz) comes to him for help investigating her twin sister's apparent suicide. Constantine, of course, uncovers a Dark and Evil plot, and enlists the help of various supporting characters (to their detriment, I'm sorry to say) in order to expose and thwart said Plot. 

As with most "demon" focused stories, the film relies heavily on its own dubious version of Catholic theology, including some interesting ideas of repentence and grace. However, the part I find most interesting is the practical mythology--how does one battle demons in this reality?  What weapons are used?  This film sports a collection of old standbys (protect yourself from demonic activity with this super special pendant!) and some newer ideas as well (fight demons with holy water balls, dragon fire, and screaming beetles!). 

The effects vary wildly--majestic angel's wings and creepy demons, but certain aspects of demon possession bordered on cheesy.  And of course, Reeves is not exactly an acclaimed actor.  Then again, he tends to choose films (like this one) that make the most of his limitations and steer clear of demanding too much emotional range.

Bottom line:  It may not be groundbreaking cinema, but it's a fun action-horror movie, and a fine way to kill a couple hours.

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