Constantine (2005)

Constantine is a 2005 supernatural thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence. The film is based on the comic book Hellblazer, and follows the adventures of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a compulsive smoker who has been brought back from the dead in order to prove that he doesn’t deserve to go to Hell. Supporting him in this quest for redemption is his apprentice Chas (Shia LaBeouf), and a police officer named Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz). Sooner, rather than later, demons are coming onto Earth, something that is supposedly forbidden by both Satan and God.

With an interesting premise, Constantine‘s story ends up being far more of a burden than it should have been. The basic plot of the film is just fine, with the primary focus being placed on the angels and demons fight to rule the Earth. However, at around the halfway point, the entire production kind of falls apart. John Constantine’s entire motivation for saving Earth is to earn his way into Heaven, something that he is told early on is impossible. Before the film began, he apparently committed suicide, and ended up being sent back to Earth by Satan. Why does he get sent back? I’m still not really sure. What I am sure of is that the important parts of the story are all told from one character to another, so as to not confuse the audience any more than should happen.

Unfortunately, these pauses in the action to relay plot points hurt the film even more. The plot itself actually does end up being kind of silly, completely skipping out on certain parts that happened earlier. For example, early on in the film, Constantine is told that he is dying of lung cancer. He’s smoked 30 cigarettes a day since the age of 15. He should expect this. Constantine shows the audience that he is dying, constantly coughing and collapsing, even while attempting to get off another puff. Then, the halfway point of the film kicks in, and Constantine forgets that he’s dying, and becomes just another invincible god-like character. The weakness that he had in the first half of the film made him somewhat more likable as a character. You almost wanted him to succeed, and get his way into Heaven, but only “almost.”

When dealing with an actor like Keanu Reeves, you need to think about why he was chosen for the role. At this point, everyone pretty much knows what you’re going to get from him. He’s not going to show a lot of emotion, and for a character like John Constantine, that almost works just fine. Constantine is a smug cynic, so choosing an actor that doesn’t have a lot of emotional depth or range seems like a fine fit. However, with a character like that, you need to have some reason to care. In the first half of the film, this is the ever-present thought that death is going to come in the form of lung cancer. In the second half, Constantine forgets, as does the audience, and instead the film turns into a one-man wrecking ball against dozens of demons. This is far less interesting than watching a man fight his way back into God’s good books, that’s for sure.

It’s far too long, especially with the second half being as boring as it is.

That’s really the main thing that makes Constantine a movie that doesn’t warrant any attention. Its second half is uninteresting and overall far too long. The film does only clock in at 121 minutes, but there is quite a lot that really doesn’t need to be there. The film ends up having an awkward pacing, as well as being kind of boring for a lot of the time, especially in the second half. The visuals actually end up being the most interesting part. For the most part, they do look quite nice. The depiction of Hell in this film is also one of the best I’ve seen. Or, at least the closest I’ve seen to my own personal vision of Hell. It really does look like a place where souls are tormented for all eternity, and definitely a place you wouldn’t want to end up in.

All in all, Constantine ends up being a failure of a movie. It’s far too long, especially with the second half being as boring as it is. Although Keanu Reeves doesn’t do a terrible job with the character he is given, we still don’t really care about him. The motivation he had from the first half of the film ends up almost entirely disappearing in the second half, leaving the audience wondering why he’s doing everything he’s doing. The film does look nice, though, and you can tell that the production values were fairly high. Lawrence’s vision of Hell certainly comes fairly close to mine, so at least the parts that take place there kept me entertained. But, just looking at a still image almost would have given me the same sense of fulfillment, so Constantine can’t be recommended for those few short scenes either. It’s a boring film that’s only real redeeming feature is the visual effects if flaunts.

Conclusion: Constantine is a boring movie whose second half kills all excitement one can muster for it.

Recommendation: Stop smoking and don’t watch Constantine.

Rating: *1/2

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