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CONSTANTINE

Josh Bell













CONSTANTINE (R)

(2 stars)


Stars: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf


Director: Francis Lawrence


Details: Opens Friday



Based on the comic book Hellblazer, published by DC Comics imprint Vertigo, Constantine is yet another dashed-off adaptation that cares less for its source material than for cheap, easy box-office thrills. Fans of Hellblazer will cry blasphemy that the blond, British title character John Constantine is played by brown-haired, American Keanu Reeves, and that the comic's London setting, almost a character unto itself, has been transposed to Los Angeles, without taking any advantage of its new locale's uniqueness.


But the problem with Constantine isn't that changes have been made to its source material; the problem is that what it's been changed into just isn't particularly good, and could easily have been made from any generic good-vs.-evil action script without dragging poor Constantine into things.


Reeves once again plays the savior of the world, as Constantine is humanity's last line of defense against demons from hell who want nothing more than to take over the world. Their method of doing so is to bring the son of Satan to life on Earth, and to do this they need police detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), who, conveniently for Constantine, is quite fetching in addition to being the perfect conduit for Lucifer's spawn.


So Constantine and his wise-cracking sidekick (Shia LaBeouf)—yes, he's got a wisecracking sidekick—fight some demons and protect Angela, and it all goes down pretty much as you'd imagine from watching the previews. Reeves is too bland to really sell the acerbic, prickly Constantine, and just ends up coming off as whiny, although Weisz at least brings some dignity and emotion to her stock role.


The only people who look like they're really putting in an effort are on the fringes, with Tilda Swinton wonderfully smarmy as the androgynous archangel Gabriel, and Peter Stormare making a welcome late appearance as Satan himself. Music video veteran Francis Lawrence fills his feature debut with many of the hallmarks of his prior work, including pointlessly flashy camera angles and excessive, unnecessary effects. At times, Constantine looks cool, but its looks never serve the story in a meaningful way.


Pity poor John Constantine creator Alan Moore, whose League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell were both turned into mediocre films in recent years. Add Constantine to the list of movies that took comic-book concepts, but left the soul on the page.

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