4 out of 10


Keanu's Latest Hi-Tech Trip In The Etherial

In the style of Humphrey Bogart's gumshoe Sam Spade, Constantine is a Supernatural Private Detective who takes down demons, deals daily with angels and devils, and visits hell when the case in hand requires it. Based on a character of the same name in the Hellraiser comic book series, it features Keanu Reeves in title role, apparantly now typecast in movies like "Matrix", "Johnny Mnemonic" and "The Devil's Advocate" as action man of the etherial..Responsible for sending numerous demons back to Hell, Constantine lives knowing their retribution will be terrible when he dies, yet, ironically, it is not the powers of darkness who threaten him most, by the cancer from his chain-smoking.

With 241 people working on visual effects and 51 stunt professionals, the special effects are just amazing. Not only do demons appear in ever conceivable form, as well as Constantine's portrayal of Hell, but even basic characters are resplendent, such as Tilda Swinton as Gabriel, resplendent in her magnificent wings that truly look as natural as those on any pigeon you'll see outside your window. But it's all to no avail. Under the direction of Francis Lawrence, a pop video man, whose only previous work dealing with life, death, Heaven and Hell has been "MTV's Wrestling ith Satan", all his shallowness shines through the gapping holes in the he concentrates in effects not on the story, a matter left to the scriptwriters.With "Mindhunters", a superstale FBI serial killer drama being the only script produced between the two of them for nearly a decade, screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank A. Cappello are also clearly not up to the challenge and completely fail to understand or master the basic concepts of Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis original comic book. It's like seeing a team of one-legged bus drivers trying to race a Ferrari.

Having been dead myself for several minutes at the age of 10, as a result of a zinc-based anaesthetic to which I was mortally allergic, "Constantine" has a special interest for me. The Constantine that Reeves creates is a fascinating character. His usual urbane and laid-back self as he strides forth, his tie flapping in the ungodly wind, he is a man changed not only by his ability to see demons among us, but also by havng been returned from Hell as a result of a suicide in his youth. However bad, such an experience changes one's whole perception of creation, not least leaving existing authorities of the Church and State looking less than a bastion of truth and more like hut, made by a 4-year old out of old cardboard boxes, string and duct tape. Sadly, though, in this regard lies one root of the malaise of the movie. To represent Christianity with the Catholic "Church", as Hollywood always does, provides a plethora of meaningless mumbo-jumbo and Medieval "witchcrat" logic rom which the most ludicrous nonsense can be extrapolated. From "Indiana Jones" to "Tomb Raider", it is always the same stale old story about some artifact from an ancient civilization or collapsed regime that gives the power to devastate and/or conquer the world. If the Spear of Destiny that is recovered from the rubble in Mexico was so powerful, why didn't it's previous owners, Nazi Germany, use it to win the war? And throwing in Rachel Weisz in her usual role as the thinking man's flustered bimbo on the run from danger, creates an attempt at complication to the story that is still neither intelligible to me, nor to most of the ticket-buying public.

The proposition in "Constantine" is that Heaven, Hell and the Temporal World are not above or below each other, but co-exist at the same point simultaneously. Popular myth "going to the light" is a result of a statistical freak. Researchers have found that at least one in three go somewhere else after death, a trip so truly traumatising that it leaves them as silenced about their journey to Hell as those who have gone to Heaven verbosely chatty, so tilting the "stats". Like the survivors of the Titanic, we are a group who have no councelling nor could have any so extreme is our experience. Indeed, it took me nearly 20 years to begin to come to terms with what had happened to me. I vividly remember passing through a place of infinite suffering, with the knowledge but no memory of having come from somewhere worst. Figures of evil resolved themselves steadily into humans as I drifted back to conciousness, screaming. The Contantine image of the three realities co-existing with merely an offset is an overwhelming one.

The concept that Los Angeles is the centre of the spiritual world, by contrast, is NOT a realistic one, for it is a lame excuse by short-sighted directors who seek to cut corners on their budgets both by shoorting locally and shooting their credibility in the head. Indeed, the original comic was set in England, but, true to the narrow Philistine mind of this Hollywood director, the only thing that can be English in "Constantine" are slick bad guys like Balthazar, a demon played by Bush-X lead singer Gavin Rossdale.

One cannot deny Francis Lawrence's ability in cinematography and the movie contains many great scenes, but they just don't gel and by the time Peter Stormore steps up in the last reel as a laughably campy Satan, you can almost hear 241 visual artists sobbing in the background. The work challenging our most basic ideas of life that they've put their heart and soul into for months turned out to have been an unintelligible pop video all this time!

Fusion of Talent Hollywoodised Into A Trashy Pop Video

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett