Universe: DC (stand-alone).
Director: Francis Lawrence.
Screenplay: Kevin Brodbin & Frank A. Cappello.
Story: Kevin Brodbin.
Release Date: 2005.
Runtime: 121 min.
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy, Supernatural.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf, Tilda Swinton, and many more!
Opening Weekend: $33,624,407.
Domestic Gross: $75,976,178.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10).
Originally created by Alan Moore in one of his Swamp Thing comic book stories, John Constantine is a dark and cynical character that has garnered the attention of a lot of fans over the years. First introduced on the big screen thanks to Keanu Reeves, the character was quickly integrated into various DC Comics stories, including the Justice League Dark, while having multiple solo runs by different creative teams. His character was also seen in the NBC TV series Constantine that ran for 13 episodes before getting canceled. Fortunately for fans, actor Matt Ryan reprises his role as he finds himself picked up in the CW Arrowverse TV series Legends of Tomorrow. While his character is a lot more tamed nowadays, his charisma and personality easily capture the attention of viewers as his fanbase continues to grow. But how did Keanu Reeves do when he had the challenge to introduce John Constantine while he remained pretty unknown for the world? Pretty good, I’d say.
What is Constantine (2005) about? Loosely based on the Original Sins story arc by Jamie Delano, this movie directed by Francis Lawrence presents fans with their first live-action John Constantine played by none other than Keanu Reeves. The story introduces us to his character, a cynical exorcist who can see half-angels and half-demons, as he seeks to earn favor with Heaven knowing that he is condemned for eternal damnation in Hell following a suicide attempt as a kid. While each of his successful attempts to exorcise demons out of individuals, his wish is never fulfilled as his actions are tainted in self-interest. One day, however, he finds himself tangled into a dangerous mystery involving the suicide of a detective’s twin sister, which leads him to seek out extreme measures in order to uncover a truth that could change the face of the Earth forever but also his faith.
Surprisingly, Constantine turned out to be one of the most underrated movies I have ever seen so far. The tone of the movie was occult and completely immersive, depicting a dangerous and sinister Los Angeles, riddled with mischievous individuals. From the colours to the murkiness of the streets, the movie conveyed a depressing and heavy atmosphere that brilliantly captures John Constantine’s inner conflict. In fact, throughout the movie, the character felt shackled to the sins of the world as well as those of his past and brilliantly brought to the foreground his peculiar temperament. The religious overtones also allowed the movie to simmer on dichotomous ideas that greatly contributed to the viewer’s understanding of Constantine’s goal, although it wouldn’t be anyone’s fault if they were to find themselves lost past the second half of the movie as it swims in ideologies instead of remaining grounded.
The story’s direction was interesting, with an excellent premise to kick things off, but quickly loses itself along the way when more characters were sneaked into the main storyline. The constant repetition of religious fundamentals and the descent into the mystical elements of the character also quickly overwhelmed the Earth-based story, leaving the viewer conflicted between an interpersonal battle of the main cast and the inter-realm conflict involving Heaven, Hell, and Earth. I will have to admit that I, however, enjoyed the final act as it allowed to showcase one of the character’s best facet, that of deception.
On an acting perspective, Keanu Reeves taking on the role of John Constantine is a mysteriously intriguing decision. Although Nicholas Cage was supposed to play the character, the final decision offered us an original take on the British chain-smoking cynic and his dark magic. I believe Keanu Reeves natural ability for offbeat humour and his natural grim murmurs and whispers—that can, in fact, be sometimes hard to understand—allows him to convey his character’s struggle to obtain an afterlife he desires. His character still successfully presents his constant battle for redemption but also the suffocating reality in which he resides, as he attempts to drown it with booze or choke it with cigarettes.
The supporting cast was also surprisingly decent in their own roles, from Shia LeBeouf as John Constantine’s apprentice Chas Kramer, to Tilda Swinton playing the Archangel Gabriel, they all offered a performance that was void of any reproach. Rachel Weisz as Angela Dodson, a troubled LAPD detective who investigates her twin sister’s suicide was also interesting. Although her character turned out to be a little dull at times, a sentiment that can also sometimes be felt at certain scenes throughout the movie, she still shows a realistic desire to get to the bottom of it all while suspending her disbelief as her religious beliefs takes over and enables John Constantine in seeing in her another opportunity to earn favours with Heaven.
The movie does rely on a hefty amount of CGI in order to produce some of the more supernatural elements in the movie, although credit should be given to the costume designers who managed to design some pretty nasty demons on screen. While it is inevitably easy to notice the sequences requiring CGI, they still remain incredibly well done for a movie released in 2005. The CGI also allowed for some short and action-packed sequences that gave Keanu Reeves an opportunity to showcase his ability to handle some insane accessories and weaponry, including his mastery for dark magic.
Constantine (2005) is a theological noir detective thriller presenting a hero’s ultimate battle for redemption as he is sucked into a terrible and dark conspiracy between Heaven and Hell.
When the story finally introduces Papa Midnite’s club, known as a neutral ground where half-breeds can live without being exposed, I immediately thought of John Wick’s world. This movie could actually be a perfect prequel to John Wick when you think about it. Imagine if it was a source of inspiration?
Have you read any John Constantine/Hellblazer comics?
Have you seen Constantine (2005)? What did you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!