The parade of comic book (er, graphic novel) adaptations continues with Constantine, a reworking of DC Comics' monthly Hellblazer. Unlike most of the other source comics, Hellblazer has a much older audience, and is considered for "mature readers." The closest piece of comparison would be the awful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but thankfully Constantine does not sink that low. It still is not much of a film, hampered by a convoluted script, over-reliance on CGI, and the miscasting of Keanu Reeves. Reeves (Something's Gotta Give, The Matrix Revolutions) plays John Constantine, who is trying to get into Heaven by sending as many demons as possible back to hell. The premise behind the film is that Earth is like some chessboard between God and Satan. Each uses angels and demons to try to wage war over souls, but there can be no direct contact. Constantine is one of the few who can see angels and demons, and a suicide attempt years ago condemned him to Hell. He is trying to redeem himself by doing as many good acts as possible.

It's interesting to note that the underlying theology in Kevin Brodbin (The Glimmer Man), and Frank Capello's (No Way Back, Suburban Commando) screenplay is firmly rooted in Catholicism. God and Satan exist, as does Hell, a ravaged, fire-scorched city awash with demons. To declare such beliefs so overtly is unusual, even in the bad to mediocre Christian films that come out every so often. Of course, director Francis Lawrence (who has a background in music videos) changes things to suit the story, but this is to be expected. As the chain-smoking Constantine, Reeves tries to act with a "who gives a f*ck" attitude, but this doesn't work. His minimalist delivery is not suited to that of a world-weary, lung-cancer afflicted arsehole. And although he's over forty (wow), Reeves still looks a bit boyish, and way too healthy for the role.

Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz, Envy, Runaway Jury) seeks out Constantine's help to solve the suicide of her twin sister Isabel. Isabel was a devout Catholic, so Dodson finds suicide highly unlikely, although cameras caught Isabel jumping off a building. Of course, larger things are at play that involve the Spear of Destiny (the spear that a Roman soldier stuck in Jesus' side while crucified), and the emergence of Satan's son on Earth. It's all a bunch of hooey, and any thought directed at deciphering the script is bound to leave one annoyed. Basically, it's Constantine and an initially skeptical Dodson running around killing demons. Along the way, Reeves and his own personal Sccoby gang help out before Satan's emissary Balthazar (Bush's Gavin Rossdale, Little Black Book) and the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton, The Statement, Young Adam) appear occasionally to annoy Constantine.

The story drags considerably in the middle, as Lawrence tries to develop the Constantine and Dodson characters, as well as the beginnings of a relationship between them. Lawrence also has a habit of trying to fill as much of the screen as possible with CGI, probably to try to grab the attention of the audience. This is overkill. The first few shots of Hell were effective, constant trips back are not. It seems there was a lot of thought put into the underlying tenets of the Constantine universe. The story sets everything up, then throws a lot away in favor of a typical action-style horror film. Nothing in this film justifies a two-hour running time, and although Constantine is never boring, it frequently approaches this level.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
2 hours, 1 minute, Rated R for violence and demonic images.

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