Movie Reviews
4:42 pm
Wed February 16, 2005

Constantine

A horror film with somewhere to go.

Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of National Review OnLine, recently wrote that "we couldn't appreciate that evil is real and it exists. In a society where everyone is a victim and it's not right to 'judge' others, there's not much room left for real monsters, while society itself becomes monstrous." And so Hannibal Lecter is a "charming rogue" rather than a monster.

A new paranormal action thriller, Constantine, brimgs us back to the days of discernible demons. An old Catholic boy like me truly enjoys any struggle between good and evil that features luminaries such as Lucifer, Balthazar, and Gabriel. Have minimalist actor Keanu Reeves play a supernatural detective with echoes of Matrix's Neo and the talented Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) a genderless Angel Gabriel and you have a horror film with somewhere to go, to Hades that is. These are monsters and angels I can see and love and hate and most of all, call them what they are.

Reeves' lung-cancer-terminal John Constantine is from the Hellblazer comic book, a bad boy sleuth who has literally been to Hell and now chases half-breed Hell denizens back to where they belong so that he might win his way to heaven. His partner, Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), tags along to find out why her twin sister committed suicide in circumstances that have hellish affiliations. Beyond this summary lies a convoluted story about Constantine's attempts to keep a balance between heaven and hell that stops long enough for us to enjoy an over-the-top visit from white-clad Satan, played with obvious delight by Peter Stormare (Minority Report).

The f/x is as impressive as any horror/thriller's out there today, and Reeves' performance is as one note as we have come to expect. His clothes, thanks to Louise Frogley's monochromatic costuming, are slick black, a complement to the noirish world of black and white. (For you purists, the comic book hero is made into a Los Angeles native allegedly because Reeves couldn't be counted on to keep a proper Brit accent for over two hours).

The theme of good versus evil having been overplayed in our cinema, we are left with little but a titillating twist to keep us interested. So the interest for this Catholic boy is the idea that evil must exist in order for good to triumph. Constantine, therefore, tries to figure out how evil survives and why it must. Maybe he decides that without evil there is just a bunch of blue staters waiting for the second coming of a Clinton in 2008.