PREVIOUSLY: The Cinema Doctor was able to survive a night in the Bates Motel when he committed Gus Van Sant’s needless remake of Psycho. For this month, The Cinema Doctor delves into the realm of the supernatural — devils, demons, Keanu Reeves, and other unspeakable horrors — as he waves his cross Constantine‘s way.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Tilda Swinton, Gavin Rossdale, Peter Stormare, and Max Baker
Based on: the DC/Vertigo Comic series Hellblazer
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
John Constantine is a condemned man. After committing a mortal sin, he seeks forgiveness by returning rogue demons back to Hell, before they can upset the balance. The apparent suicide of a mental patient brings a determined detective to Constantine’s door. Together, the two attempt to figure out how the suicide is connected to the spirit world, and how it threatens to upset the balance.
- The film is designed to within an inch of its life. The scenes that take place in Hell are actually quite striking, and effectively illustrate what horrors await in the room downstairs. While many sets are top notch because of their simplicity, the city of Los Angeles is utilized in ways that really show off the darker side of LA.; thus, making the switch from Liverpool to LA less significant.
- The exorcism scene in the beginning of the film is quite potent. The methods Constantine uses sets up his skills perfectly. It expounds to the audience that this is a man whose skills in the occult dwarf those of most holy men.
- The bulk of the supporting cast are more than capable, and play their roles with total competency. Weisz definitely makes for a top-notch leading lady. Hounsou can practically play the mysterious type character in his sleep. Swinton clearly looks like she relishes playing an otherworldly character. She definitely sells the angelic nature of the character extremely well. In the end the real winner in the cast is Peter Stormare as Lucifer. He is only in one scene but makes off with the entire movie like a mad robber.
- The central concept of the title character and the realm of the story are immensely intriguing and have plenty of aspects to keep you watching.
- The bit where Constantine and Chas rig the hospital sprinkler system with Holy Water is kinda bad-freaking-ass.
Speaking as someone who has not avidly read the source material, there is enough to keep a viewer allured by what he or she is seeing. The central concept is very interesting, and the characters definitely stand out in the pantheon of paranormal character in pop culture. Many of the supporting leads are very well cast, and don’t sleepwalk through the film, even if it is just a paycheck for them. Constantine is never dull and, despite the problems that will be mentioned, never has you groaning with disdain.
- Let’s get past the obvious: even if John Constantine were from SoCal as opposed to Liverpool, it still wouldn’t change the fact that Keanu Reeves was totally wrong for this role. It’s not that that he lacks the confidence or even the presence; it’s just that he lacks the range necessary to portray a character who is evidently complex. Reeves has done some fantastic work in his career but in order for him to do so he needs the right role and the right director.
- The editing of the script, and even the film itself, is a bit “huh”-inducing. Not really to the point that it destroys our comprehension of the story; just enough so as to ruin the flow of certain scenes. It’s almost as if the director didn’t have confidence in his abilities to counterbalance the subtle aspects of the story with the spectacle. The character driven aspects of the film are more interesting than the action — if anything, it would have benefited the film to put more emphasis on them.
- The previous symptom is exacerbated by the fact that what few action scenes that are in the film feel extremely rushed and, on the whole, uninspired. Which really is a shame considering every single scene actually shows much potential to stand out in our minds. It seems that the director also had no faith in his abilities as an action director.
- Of course, your production is only as good as the script you’re given, and the script indeed has problems. Though the story evolution is never lost, the writers clearly let themselves loose one too many times, because by the final showdown, the film becomes irritatingly anticlimactic. There is absolutely no tension and no surprises. The revelation of Gabriel’s involvement in the proceedings is so blatant you could see it coming before the character even appears in the film. What’s worse is that the big info-dump scene that follows the revelation is so muddled that you really don’t care, and you just want to get to the inevitable “hero-win” scene.
- Shia LeBeouf suffers more than anyone from the lackluster script. His character spends so much of his time in the background that he is pretty much an afterthought for a bulk of the movie. If he didn’t take part in the final showdown we would have forgotten about him completely. The script never really gives us a chance to get to know this character, and as a result Chas’s demise has absolutely no dramatic effect on us.
- Gavin Rossdale’s Balthazar shows absolutely no charisma whatsoever, which is a disaster. Given the way the character is presented, charisma is clearly a necessity. Come on, the dude can’t even write music of any kind of substance — what makes us think he could deliver a performance as a rogue demon?
Serious birth defects brought about by a premature delivery by an inexperienced Cine-Med.
This was a film that clearly was just designed to be another money maker, and thus the studios didn’t feel the need to take sufficient time to develop the script. You can’t just commission someone to write a script for a major license and expect them to trill out Shakespeare in a set amount of time. The writers can only do so much in time given. Same goes for a director. If you want someone to direct a big budget action-horror flick it would seem proper to choose a director who boasts a strong multitasking ability. That way he can aid in developing every aspect of the film beyond the current draft of the script. A film is like a building and the script is the foundation — if the foundation is shoddily constructed, then the whole thing will come crashing down.
Time heals all wounds, and indeed time would indeed have helped to develop Constantine beyond the limited imaginations of the writers, and the director. With more development time it would have been made blatantly clear to all involved that the choices made vis-a-vis the story, the sequences, and even the choice of actors would have been more carefully developed.
CAN THIS PATIENT BE SAVED?
I think we’ll have to keep this baby on life support for a while until it can get strong enough to walk.
NEXT SESSION: The Cinema Doctor goes to the zoo with the cast of A Fish Called Wanda.