The Red Right Hand
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CONSTANTINE
Welcome To My Life

Director
Francis Lawrence
Starring
Keanu Reeves
Rachel Weisz

Djimon Hounsou
Shia LaBeouf
Gavin Rossdale

If Keanu ever wanted to leave the Matrix behind him and focus on a new path in his career then this movie may have been a good call. Unfortunately for him the trailers all portrayed him as a man who could 'see the world beneath the world' which sounds somewhat Matrixesque, don't you think? Secondly, he's got to do something about his look, the neo-white shirt, black tie thing just floods the audience with images of him saying "Free my mind, ok, free my mind, no problem." etc. Speaking of clothing, this film -though based on the DC/Vertigo characters from the graphic novel Hellblazer- is not Hellblazer. If it was then it would be set in England, not LA, Keanu would have dyed his hair blonde and wore a long mustard trench coat. The sooner you cast thoughts of Hellblazer from your mind the better (for the purposes of watching this film, at least).

For those that are frowning wondering what 'Hellblazer' is and what I'm talking about, allow me to explain. About 20 years ago a comic was written about a man  (I say 'man' he's actually a Liverpodlian.... bloody scousers) who cast out half-breed demons who were trying to claw their way into our plain of existence, what spawned from that notion was a series of astounding and (in places) terrifyingly disgusting comics. As I said, the story focuses around the crusades of the young Brit, John Constantine. The graphics give leeway for an unprecedented amount of film ideas and concepts, but film companies being what they are they've brought it out of the 80's and into the 21st Century, ie. from England to Los Angeles.

The opening scene had me in stitches. We open on a rather flimsy and vague definition of the 'Spear Of Destiny' -the spear that lanced Christ on the cross- which fades up to a shot of an old abandoned church. We then see these two Mexicans.. and what are they doing? WHO KNOWS!? They were just rummaging through the dirt on the floor. The one in the background was moving empty bottles and the one in the foreground appeared to be counting the granules of dust, when one happens to stubble across the spear and begins his long trip to LA.

I must admit, at this point I had seen a cool CG effect but couldn't get over the (very) American portrayal of your average Mexican... I had little hope that the film would improve. Luckily I was proven wrong. As I watched the film unfold we learn that the chain-smoking Constantine has developed cancer and is now fearful of dying after certain assurances that he's going straight to Hell when his body finally gives in. Enter the rather well-acted and convincing angelic character Gabriel [Tilda Swinton] and some beautiful CG wings (I'm sorry, I have this slight fascination about winged humans. Even if the whole thing would be impractical and seemingly impossible, growing up catholic, surrounded by the iconography of it all... it allures me). The back-talking aggressive nature of Constantine makes a nice clean break from the unknowing (then seemingly all-knowing) Neo. While we are following Constantine's growing predicament we also get introduced to Angela Dodson [Weisz], a detective whose committed twin sister has just leapt off the roof of a hospital to her death, displaying the mark of Mammon burnt onto her wrist. To be honest her character is a little thin leaving Weisz little to work with, but what she has been given she flies with, making the contrast between Constantine & Dodson an enjoyable one.

The biggest problem for me (bearing in mind I had done my best to put all thoughts of Hellblazer far and away in the cracks of my mind) was that there was nothing new. It was all filmed well, with that gritty comic-look we've come to know and love, special effects that gave life to everything they touched and a fairly original plot basis with a good flow. Having said all that, if you've seen End Of Days, Devil's Advocate or even The Order/Sin Eater then you'll probably feel some familiarity playing in your mind as you watch Constantine. I personally thought that this offering was better than three I just listed, but considering that they aren't exactly revered classics, that doesn't say much in favour for this movie.

Fans of the whole occult/horror genre and of Reeves will have nothing much to complain about, as long as 'blazer fans KNOW that this is never going to be the Hellblazer they all know and love they should enjoy themselves too and considering there's a sequel already in production I should think this isn't the last we've seen of Constantine, not just yet.. let's just hope they hit the sequel with the same forte and grit that makes this movie the success I see it can be.

Release Date:
18 March 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Just because I giggled a lot during this bit. Dodson has accepted what she has to do and admits to Constantine that she used to see things as a child but denied it until it went away. He explains that he can show her again but she has to completely submerge herself in a bath tub. She hands him her gun and badge, then her coat. There's a very slight pause before she says, "So, is this good or do I have to take off the rest of my clothes?" Constantine seems to stare past her and there's another pause, this one longer than the last, which is brought to an end as Dodson says, "John?" To which Constantine replies, "I'm thinking." For any Hellblazer fans, they'll be allowed a glimpse of the Constantine they know and love.... a pervert.

Notable Characters:
I was kinda split, so I have two. First of all, Gavin Rossdale (lead singer: Bush) plays the demon Balthazar with an oddly camp conviction; although something I hate is when evil is always depicted as beautiful (the notion of seduction makes sense I just don't like the idea of them being beautiful through-and-through) so when we see that under his skin, Balthazar is nothing more than a viscous, snot-skinned demon, I smiled a little. Then there's Peter Stormare, who I feel is another one of those very under-appreciated actors, playing Satan. As he enters you see a man dressed in a white suit with natural assumption that it's God, but as you notice his feet dripping with tar, the tattoos under said suit (not to mention his lack of eyebrows) and southern American accent you start to wonder what's going on. At first I didn't like his portrayal of Lucifer but he carries it off well and even though he's only on screen for a short period of time he conveys a fantastic presence, especially as he reaches inside Constantine's chest saying "This one's mine!"

Highlighted Quote:
"You're going to die young because you smoked thirty cigarettes a day since you were fifteen - and you're going to go to Hell because of the life you took. You're fucked."

In A Few Words:
"This isn't Hellblazer, it's Constantine and should be treated as such."

Total Score:
7/10


Matthew Stogdon