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What a mess of a movie this is. At least it's an entertaining mess. Think of The Matrix crossed with The Exorcist crossed with Michael crossed with Hellboy crossed with Van Helsing and you may start to get the idea. Constantine tells the story of a dying man named Constantine (Keanu Reeves), who can't get into Heaven because he once tried suicide, so he whiles away the time until he goes to Hell by finding demons and sending them back to Hell. Make sense so far? He meets a dishy police detective (Rachel Weisz) whose twin sister (also Rachel Weisz) has just committed suicide. It seems that Rachel and/or her sister are needed by the son of Satan so he can break into the real world. Also needed is the Spear of Destiny, i.e. the spear used to stab Jesus on the cross, which turns up just in time. Just for fun type "Spear of Destiny" into Google if you want to get up to date with conspiracy theories. That will explain, sort of, why we are told at the beginning of the movie that the spear has been missing since the end of World War II. When I saw that, I said, "huh?" but that was just the beginning. Now where was I? Oh ya. Reeves and Weisz must stop Hell from breaking out all over. To do this, they must deal with both Satan (Peter Stormare) and the Archangel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton). And then everyone gets killed. Oops! But wait, that doesn't give anything away since everyone in the movie is killed at least once. What I won't tell you is which ones come back to life! Did I mention that all the action takes place in Los Angeles, the city of angels? And Reeves has a cool demon-killing gun, very similar to the one recently used by Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing.
Constantine is yet another movie based on a comic book that I had never heard of, and the director, Francis Lawrence, is yet another first time director who has previously done only music videos. These two facts don't bode well for a movie. The direction is as big a mess as the screenplay. Nothing makes much sense in Constantine. The people who made this movie didn't seem to get the idea that when you are telling a story that is a complete fantasy like The Matrix, it still needs to have some internal consistency. Constantine doesn't make sense even in the world of Constantine. But it's not boring. The cast is great. Keanu Reeves is cool as the world-weary demon killer and Rachel Weisz rocks as usual. She seems to really like making movies where people (Chain Reaction, Enemy at the Gates, Runaway Jury) or demons (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) are out to kill her. There are various entertaining cameos, mostly by people who end up dead 5 minutes later. Like I said, everyone gets killed at least once! Shia LaBeouf stands out as Keanu's sidekick. Pruitt Taylor Vince gets to overact as the kind of troubled priest that Satan loves so much and Max Baker fills the other necessary role of the guy who makes all the demon-killing gadgets. Crosses and Holy water aren't enough anymore! Peter Stormare adds to his eclectic repertoire (e.g., Armageddon, Fargo, Dancer in the Dark, Chocolat) by playing a very goofy Satan. The best thing in Constantine is Tilda Swinton, playing the Archangel Gabriel. She is no stranger to gender-bending roles (Orlando) and she is fantastic here. Swinton is the best angel with an edge since Emma Thompson in Angels in America.
Ok, it's not a great movie, but I think Constantine is a great movie to rent on a Saturday night. Reeves and Weisz have a nice little chemistry going and both are capable of rising above the whacked-out material. By the way, you may want to walk out of the theatre early but there is a last scene at the very end of the closing credits which, in my screening, was only seen by the three people, including me, who stayed to read the credits.