REVIEW: CONSTANTINE (2005)

Shooty score: 3/5 kicky score: 2/5 sexy score: 5/5

Enjoy with: a tawny port, you sensual rascal. Slip on a pair of your fanciest underwear and light a few mood candles. You’d want to make sure the port is at least 20-year-old (try a Sandeman or Graham’s) and ready to be served at room temperature. To open, give it a little tickle across the label before firmly grasping the bottleneck. Once secure in your grip, gently twist the head until you feel it release. Be careful not to spill a drop, you’ll be needing all the silky richness to calm your fluttering heart later on.


“Constantine” is the story of a chain-smoking loner, John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), who mopes about shooting dragon breath from the hip and riding around in cars with Shia LaBeouf. He picks up a bad case of cancer and winds up taking on the emotional baggage of a Catholic cop, Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), whose sister’s death sparks a series of supernatural encounters. Most of the film is spent following Dodson and Constantine as they muck about swapping asylum stories in between killing demons.

The plot is such a sweet blend of both fantasy and regular life admin that the sense of wonder and realism throughout the film saves it from ever feeling too silly.

The only serious problem is that Reeves is so profoundly compelling that as the story escalates into a battle against time to prevent an impending apocalypse, you almost lose interest in anything other than looking deep into his eyes.

Ever wonder what a sexually repressed goth kid fantasised about while being forced to endure a classical Catholic education? Well, it’s the cross-bearing, blasphemous, Constantine. In fact, as one of the most eligible bachelors in gothic fantasy, his appeal can be summed up in a personal add:

Misunderstood exorcist looking for a (mostly) human for long walks in hell. Must be open to water-sports and purification. Smokers need not apply.

Heartthrob gazing aside, the film is a marvel to watch in other ways. Long shot camera angles make sure you soak in the backdrops that perfectly frame the film’s contrasting characters. From the beautiful, gold-adorned religious icons used to hint at the ‘pompous’ undercurrent of the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton), to the seedy red lit nightclubs and corporate boardrooms of the demon Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale). Even in Constantine’s flat, where it’s dark, seemingly cold and damp – it serves as a visual clue to reflect the same hollowness and disregard he has for his own life.

Almost with a touch of Baz Luhrmann, the detail is intricate and elegant. Even in moments of brutal violence, not a drop of blood seems to go to waste as the red pools help to add an extra eerie touch of Je ne c’est quoi.

However, the CGI monsters are laughable and you can’t help but wonder if puppetry would have been more suitable to help inject some much-needed horror into the picture. While Constantine has the creepy asylum, possessed children, suicides and mysterious voices it wraps these dark subjects up in a lot of slap-dash action, which keeps the mood light. It’s a shame considering you are meant to believe that John has seen some shit. As a paying audience, you are owed the right to see it too or at least something similar. Not be forced to sit through a poorly animated bug-crab man do a menacing jiggle on a freeway.

The film does hit the nail on the head but only right at the end when you are granted an audience with Peter Stormare’s Satan. It’s a terrifying but excellent performance mixing quiet madness with an insatiable sadistic hunger of a man who cannot be denied his toys. You’ll be scratching at goosebumps for days to come.

Naturally, I couldn’t end this review without addressing a few tiny details hardcore comic fans would note from Alan Moore’s original conception of John Constantine and the following Hellblazer comics. No need to start crying or yelling. We’re all drunk adults here, and we can forgive the director’s (Francis Lawrence) blatant disregard for all the significant character features of Constantine – like his blonde hair, or British accent. Sure casting a dark-haired American actor is probably as painful to some as if when casting Harry Potter they had decided to go more Macaulay Culkin than Daniel Radcliff. But focusing on these trivial details and denying yourself an entertaining couple of hours will be a disservice to the film and also your libido.

Runtime: 121mins
Certificate: 15 – violence, suicide, no sex but plenty of material for an erotic fanfiction.
Dir: Francis Lawrence
Writers “Hellblazer”: Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis
Screenplay: Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello