Ahh exorcists. One of the most unappreciated occupations we have out there, next to janitors and possibly placekickers. It's a rough job, taking demons out of innocent souls, but someone has to do it, right? While you might not find the job listing on Monster, you can see the occupation in all its splendor and suffering in Constantine, a very entertaining flick that makes up for the incredibly horrible month and a half that has been 2005 so far.
The exorcist profiled in this flick is John Constantine (Reeves), the Daredevil of exorcists. He's a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy, and puts the Marlboro man to shame with his smoking habit. He's like most Americans, in that he hates his job, but he does what he has to earn his way. But, unlike most Americans who do what they have to for rent, food and so on, he performs his duty so he can earn his way into heaven...so I guess he's also like the Bartelby and Loki of exorcists in that manner as well. We start off with Constantine on a routine assignment, pulling a demon out of an innocent girl, but something isn't right. This is a soldier demon who is trying to cross fully into the human world, something that is not supposed to be possible. His search for answers crosses paths with another searching for answers, Angela Dotson (Weisz), a cop whose twin sister committed suicide, something Angela believes is not possible, with her sister being a devout Catholic. In their search they come across an ancient spear, and some shady partnerships from above and below that could very well bring a new hell on Earth.
The acting here is nicely done from this rather diverse cast. Keanu Reeves does a splendid job as the dark, chain smoking Constantine. It's clear that he's rather uncomfortable doing the smoking parts in the flick, but other than that, he portrays the pessimistic Constantine rather nicely. He's a very strange character, one who seems to enjoy and hate his work at the same time, and Reeves pulls off this conflicted character in a subtle yet effective manner. I was pleased to see one of my favorite young actors, Shia Labeouf in this flick, as Constantine's underling, Chas Chandler. I loved his lead performance in the little-seen The Battle of Shaker Heights, and his smaller performance in I, Robot was nicely done as well. He has a slightly bigger role in this flick, than in I, Robot, and he adds a bit of sarcastic comic relief here, and overall does a great job as Constantine's apprentice. Rachel Weisz, who can be on (See: Confidence, About a Boy) or off (See: Envy), does a solid job as the cop Angela. Also look for nice smaller performances from Djimon Hounsou, as a legendary exorcist, Pruitt Taylor Vince, as an alcoholic priest and a smashing, yet very small performance from Peter Stormare as the man downstairs. However, I wasn't very thrilled with Tilda Swinton, who I just loved in The Deep End, as Gabriel, and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale was horrid as the half-breed demon Balthazar.
The two screenwriters credited on this project have some rather iffy resumes, but they turned out a fine script for this project. Kevin Brodbin (The Glimmer Man) and Frank A. Cappello (Suburban Commando...yeah, the one with Hulk Hogan) team up for a great script here, with some great dialogue, story arc, pacing and a terrific ending. I think the ending could've been condensed just a tad, but still it was a wonderful little twist that I really didn't see coming. I don't know if it was love of the comic book that this was based on, but this material seemed to bring out the best in their work, because, in looking at their past works, they haven't written this good before...ever. They give us a perfect dose of character development, not too much and not too little, and the story works itself out rather nicely and it answers all of the questions it poses throughout the flick.
Director Francis Lawrence is a graduate of the new-school of film directing: music videos. He was a prominent music video director doing work for several of music's big stars like Will Smith, Aerosmith and Britney Spears. He crosses over into film rather fluidly, with a nice flowing style that serves this story well. Sure, the visual effects seem to take over the flick in some places, but Lawrence keeps it in check for the most part, so as not to make it into a Stephen Sommers CGI-fest. Lawrence gives us a very solid debut directing performance here, and he shouldn't have any trouble finding more work in the film industry.
Constantine is a movie about righting wrongs and keeping a balance between good and evil and all that jazz. It's a wonderfully entertaining movie with plenty of action and slick dialogue to keep you in your chair. So, to paraphrase Mr. Constantine, I must say: Into the theater, I command thee...