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The deeply tortured Constantine explains that angels and demons lurk ''behind every wall, every window, the world behind the world,'' continually fighting over our souls. Now, while that's all frighteningly alarming, the film keeps going, getting so convoluted, you're left scratching your head, wondering if you've been saved or not.


Heaven. Hell. Us humans in the middle. It's all very complicated. But John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) seems to have a handle on it. Born with a gift he says no human should ever have, he has the ability to see what he calls ''half-breeds''--angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin (and apparently, there are a lot of them). Of course, the horror of it is too much to bear and Constantine tries to take his own life. But he fails. Now, having been to hell and back again, quite literally, Constantine is marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life. He patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell, acting as an exorcist of sorts. Of course, the guy isn't doing it because he feels empathy for the human race or anything. It's for purely selfish reasons. He hopes that if he sends the devil's foot soldiers back to the depths he'll gain some kind of redemption, a free get-out-of-jail card, so to speak. Constantine's attitude changes, however, when a skeptical police detective Angela (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister. They end up uncovering a twisted master plan brewing between the demons and angels which could bring about a catastrophic series of otherworldly events. Perfect.


John Constantine is a little like The Matrix's Neo--an ultra-cool but tormented man of little words, with a sardonic, fatalistic outlook on life, who kicks a myriad of nasty-looking demons (instead of a myriad of nasty-looking machines) back from whence they came. Yes, Reeves has done this before but that's because he's good at it. You can't blame him for sticking with something that works. Weisz also holds her own as the devoutly religious Angela, who nonetheless has a hard time believing there are actual angels and demons running around among us. That is, of course, until she spends about 10 minutes with Constantine and sees just how real they are. As far as the rest of the humans in the film, Shia LaBeouf (Holes) does a nice comical turn as Constantine's sidekick and protégé, while Djimon Hounsou (In America) works his voodoo mojo as a witch doctor who has a long-standing, if strained, relationship with Constantine. The not-so-human counterparts are equally intriguing. Peter Stormare (Fargo) delivers a somewhat over-the-top but devilishly eccentric performance as Satan. Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) dons the wings of the arch-angel Gabriel, to whom Constantine is always asking for a reprieve, but who has got her own agenda.


Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo comic-book Hellblazer, Constantine is demonic eye candy. Obviously inspired by the many music videos he's helmed in the past, director Francis Lawrence, making his feature film debut, paints a pretty dark and moody world, with shadowy, wet, rat-infested (or cockroach-infested) corners that hide the horrific demon half-breeds as well as all other kinds of terrible baddies. Then when we get into Hades itself, where the demons and seplavites--a sub-genre of the damned who are sightless, mindless soul eaters--prowl, it's an apocalyptic landscape. Lovely place. Unfortunately, the script isn't nearly as stimulating. It must be an arduous task, adapting a series of comic books, so to his credit, screenwriter Kevin Brodbin does do a nice job introducing us to Constantine and his world. But Brodbin seems to have incorporated too much. As the action escalates, more and more plot points and characters are thrown in, complicating matters. By the time the long-winded climax is over, you're exhausted.

Bottom Line

Although it might be unnecessarily complex in parts, Constantine still delivers a supernatural wallop, fueling a never-ending fascination with what lies beyond our world.