Director – Francis Lawrence
Cast – Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Dijmon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, Jose Zuniga
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I really enjoyed this film when I first saw it in theaters back in 2005, and to this day after another watch I can say my enjoyment for this film remains high. For one, I am a fan of religious horror and this film plays that element perfectly. This is not the usual priest exorcism a demon type flick, although that does happen somewhat in this one, but more of a God/Church vs. Demons/Satan type flick, and I loved that even more. A war between God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, polar opposites? Yeah, I dig this flick.
This flick stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, a supernatural “detective” who has literally been to Hell and back. He is trying to now buy his way into Heaven by banishing all demons that escape Hell and now reside in our earthly world. One night John comes into contact with a non-believer named Rachel Dobson(Rachel Weiss), a detective who’s sister recently commited suicide…which Rachel will not accept as her cause of death. She comes to John in an attempt to find out what really happened to her sister, but her problems are only going to get worse. A war is going on just underneath the naïve noses of all those who reside in Los Angeles, and John, Rachel, and his lackey Chas Kramer(Shia LaBeouf) are now entrapped in the war between Heaven and Hell.
For the most part, you can assume that any film adaptation from a DC/Vertigo novel is going to have an awesome plot. This flick is based off of DC/Vertigo’s “Hellblazer” graphic novel, and this comes with one of the cooler plots I have seen this millennia. Chalk down John Constantine as one of horror’s coolest killers folks, because he brings the “goods” with him.
I was so visually engaged by this film from start to finish, and we can thank director Francis Lawrence(who also directed “I Am Legend”) for putting this flick’s visual pleasure high on his pedestal. The scenes of the city are very reminiscent of the graphic novel, and the glimpses of Hell are horrific and very engaging. I really liked his demons in this film as well, among the many other creatures of the underworld Constantine comes into contact with. Pretty much all of the creatures in this flick are CGI, and I will honestly say that for this flick…it works. Most of the creatures were engaged in movements that would have been near impossible to film in a live-action scenario, so it seems Mr. Lawrence went with the only option he had. It was that or tone things down…and no one wants a horror film to be toned down. Right?
Story-wise this flick rocks, as you can already tell. I loved Constantine’s second-chance element that is thrown into this flick because it helps us connect with his character, and understand that whether he is right or wrong with his actions…the guy makes a pretty darn good point about what he has “done” to earn his way into Heaven. Rachel Weisz’s character, Angela Dobson, was definitely the most confusing out of the bunch and I quite honestly cannot really remember what the heck happened to her during the last act of the film…and that begins this flick’s problems…its character use. Constantine was great and Keanu pulled of the job quite well, but in all seriousness…what the HELL(pun intended) was Shia LaBeouf doing in this film? For one, he is played off as a supporting actor, but probably had less than 25 minutes in total screen time(a generous estimate), which consisted of only minor chuckles here and there. What a waste of a character, he was useless, worthless, and was obviously only added for comic relief which did not sell very well at all. Thankfully, that is about the only problem this flick has, although I really did want a much better fight between Constantine and Balthazar, who was portrayed by none other then Bush front-man Gavin Rossdale himself. Really, had this film taken care of its character issues this flick would have received a much higher rating. When you have a two hour long film there is no excuse for bad character use, you have plenty of time to execute the character element properly.
Overall, this is a cool watch that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre. We get one of the genre’s coolest protagonists accompanied with a sweet storyline and plenty of demons to kill. That is enough to keep me happy.