Saturday, February 19, 2005


Keanu Reeves goes through hell to...uh...

Comparison between Constantine and The Matrix movies is inevitable... so here's my take on that: they have both got (1) Keanu Reeves wearing a black trenchcoat doing stuff us ordinary humans couldn't dream about (in this one, he literally goes to hell for a short visit), (2) a story with a ton of mumbo-jumbo in it which would require months, if not years, of dedicated rersearch to unravel (I'm sure it all makes sense in the end!) and (3) a sort of deus-ex machina ending (to use one of Roger Ebert's favorite terms) to defuse a potentially impossible situation.

The premise of the movie is, however, quite promising and was one of the reasons I went to a sneak preview of it here (Other reasons include the fact that the aforementioned sneak preview was free (!) and the trailer was rather interesting). Anyway, here's how it goes: God and the Devil supposedly made a bet as to who between them can get a higher number of human souls; now, the rule was they aren't allowed to interfere with our lives directly, only sort of nudge us in some particular direction, which would earn us eternal bliss (in heaven) or eternal damnation (in, you guessed it, HELL), after we die of course. The actual "nudging" is done by their minions, angels, for God and demons, for the Devil.

So, where does Keanu Reeves come into all this. He plays John Constantine, a chain smoker, who has the gift to see these angels and demons walking among us and hopes to get into God's good graces by kicking wayward demon's asses back to hell. His life gets even more interesting when a police detective played by Rachel Weisz asks his help to prove that her dead sister did not committ suicide. (Did the Devil make her do it, then?)

With such a rich subject, you would expect things to explode off the screen, but, the movie, instead, makes the cardinal sin (its going straight to hell!) of taking its subject matter way-too-seriously and goes on to bombard us with a ton of pseudo-Christian hocus-pocus and unneeded, underdeveloped minor characters, that it loses its focus just as the plot "thickens" (Remind you of The Matrix-Reloaded and Revolutions, anyone?) The end product is an unevenly made supernatural thriller that isn't very super and doesn't thrill too much either.

Visually, however, the movie oozes style with some slick cinematography and camerwork that prevent it from looking tired. The plot also moves through a lot of different environments, sort of like a video game and each of them sport a different, interesting look. The special effects are awesome without ever dominating the movie, usually a good thing (but not so here with the people being as uninteresting as they are).

Constantine is based on a comic book and given the track record of comic books turned to movies, you really shouldn't be surprised by the lack of character development. Keanu Reeves' character is a 'been-there-seen-that' kind of guy which suits him perfectly as it means he hardly has to show any emotion ever. Rachel Weisz is very subdued throughout most of the movie - you never know what really drives her to be what she is; is she tough or vulnerable? Brave or stupid? The other characters...well, who really cares? What was needed here was more special effects, less mumbo-jumbo! That would have made this movie into another Matrix! Now, that would have been something!

NOTE: There was apparently a bonus ending to this movie, at the end of the credits, which I missed 'cos I didn't know about it (I read about it just today at Now, come on! That's not fair! There should really be a "bonus ending" alert in movies, kinda like "Parental guidance is advised" alerts. Can you really expect people to sit through minutes of mind-numbing credits rolling down in the tentative hope that there may be a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel? No!


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