Francis Lawrence’s ‘Constantine’ (2005)

11Feb07

I don’t understand why this film has received such bad word-of-mouth. I mean, no one would confuse it with Kieslowski’s Trois Coleurs trilogy, or maybe even the much lauded and more comparable Sin City. But director Francis Lawrence takes chances, and even though not all of them pay off, when they do work they work well. I would rather watch a risky film than a safe one.

Visually, the film is stunning, an effective blend of film noir and supernatural elements, and it features some strong performances. Keanu Reeves, fresh from his stint as Neo, draws on that experience to present Constantine as a world-weary skeleton of a man, fighting demons out of obligation rather than compassion. Rachel Weisz turns in a strong performance as Angela and Isabel Dodson, but the stand-out supporting actors are Tilda Swinton at her most androgynous as Gabriel and Peter Stormare as Satan. Stormare does go a little over the top at some moments, but his performance is one that is entirely unlike any characterization of Satan and at the same time pitch perfect. Props to the wardrobe department for Satan’s white suit. I just imagine Satan saying to his tailor, “Make me one just like God’s.” Shia LaBoeuf grates in the small and, frankly, useless role of Chas and Djimon Hounsou’s talent is wasted as Midnite.

I think that the film’s biggest weakness is the script. Screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello demand too much suspension of disbelief at times and the climax lacks enough of an emotional punch. The film’s ending feels truncated and leaves the viewer with the taste of cheese in her mouth.

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