Rating: 4 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
John Constantine, a psychic damned to Hell for a previous suicide attempt, hangs around Los Angeles fighting demon “half-breeds”, hoping to do enough good work to overcome his mortal sin and get into Heaven. Though he’s been informed by the angel half-breed Gabriel that good deeds done for your own benefit don’t count, he continues to try.
As demon activity in the City of Angels worsens, he’s contacted by a woman named Angela, whose twin sister recently committed suicide, though Angela is sure this is impossible, as her sister was devout and would never do something that would send her to Hell. At first Constantine resists, but after Angela is attacked by a horde of demons, he realizes she’s connected to what’s been going on in the city.
Together they discover a plot by Lucifer’s son, Mammon, to fully cross over into the Earthly plane, which requires a powerful psychic (it would have been Angela’s sister, but with her suicide, they’re after Angela instead) and the Spear of Destiny, as it’s still stained with the blood of Jesus Christ, and is only hours away from being delivered to Los Angeles.
The world of Constantine is well fleshed-out. There are a lot of great little details, like needing to psychically divine what’s written on a card to enter Papa Midnite’s night club. I’m sad they didn’t make a sequel, as I’d like to have spent more time in this creepy, messed-up world they created. I’d love to see more of the artifacts hidden away in Midnite’s warehouse. I want to hear about more of the missing Bible chapters found only in Lucifer’s version.
Lots of nicely eerie moments, like when Constantine’s friend Hennessy has been cursed, and struggles to take a drink. The effect of the open bottles giving him nothing, and then immediately leaking out as soon as he puts them down was a simple one, but effective. I liked the depiction of Hell, which is basically Los Angeles but hotter and with more wrecked cars. Constantine’s method of getting to Hell, which involves staring deep into a cat’s eyes with his feet in a bucket, was wonderfully silly. Consecrating the water in the hospital sprinkler system to take out a room full of demon half-breeds was a clever idea.
Even having seen this movie once before, years ago, I was again blown away by the scene where Angela is yanked completely through a building. It’s so effectively done that I almost jumped out of my seat.
I really don’t care that Keanu Reeves isn’t blonde or British, I think he’s an effective Constantine. And Tilda Swinton is incredible as Gabriel. I can’t imagine more perfect casting. I’d call it an award-worthy performance, despite being just a few minutes of screen time.
“You could’ve shot me, John! You chose a higher path. Look how well you’re doing!”
Some of the dialogue and scenes are a little cheesy. I hate the ending voiceover from Constantine, which implies he’s lost a bit of his cynicism. And the final after-credits scene of Shia LaBeouf’s character becoming an angel is odd-looking and unnecessary.
There’s no chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz, so their little flirty moments do not work at all. Weisz is also doing a very poor American accent, which distracted me throughout the entire movie.
I think they could’ve made the ending a bit clearer. I think even one line an hour or so before the end, such as Constantine and Angela questioning if Lucifer would be upset to learn his son is trying to violate the terms of Lucifer’s wager with God, would’ve given the ending a lot more immediate impact. Instead in the moment I’m going, wait, what is happening? Why exactly is this plan working?
“Do I have to take the rest of my clothes off or can I leave them on?”
“I guess there’s a plan for all of us. I had to die— twice—just to figure that out. Like the book says, He works His work in mysterious ways. Some people like it. Some people don’t.”