The to-be printed article is£ºExorcism Is Part of the Job Description

Exorcism Is Part of the Job Description

Author£ºA. O. SCOTT    From£ºNew York Times    Hits£º2433

You may recall that in the Matrix trilogy, Keanu Reeves played a haunted, expressionless traveler between metaphysical realms whose mission was to unravel a vast, complicated plot to ... well, to do something very bad involving a lot of computer-generated imagery. It may therefore not surprise you to learn that Mr. Reeves, in Constantine, a new theological thriller from Warner Brothers, plays a haunted, expressionless traveler ... but you get the idea. The thing is, this time his character, John Constantine, wears a skinny tie, white shirt and dark suit combination almost exactly like the one worn by Agent Smith, who was Mr. Reeves's archnemesis in the Matrix pictures. I'm still trying to get my mind around that.

David James/Warner Brothers Pictures
Patrolling the border: Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz in Constantine.

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A. O. Scott reviews Constantine, a theological thriller starring Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz.
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In the meantime, I will try to reconstruct some impression of Constantine, which all evidence, save my own memory, insists that I saw not long ago. It's coming back now: a promising opening, somewhere in the Mexican desert, where a dusty scavenger finds a pointy object (a bit of preliminary text has dropped the clue that it might be the Spear of Destiny) and is promptly crushed by a car that drops from the sky. He survives, sprouts an ominous tattoo and sets off for Los Angeles to bring about the apocalypse.

Meanwhile, John Constantine is wearily patrolling the border between this world and the one below - a landscape bathed in flaming caramel syrup in which there seem to be an awful lot of cars. (Are cars capable of sin, or do some sinners get to take their wheels with them to hell? This is one of many intriguing doctrinal questions never answered by Constantine.) His work is pretty routine - performing exorcisms, deporting undocumented demons, glowering - until a conspiracy involving the son of the devil threatens to upset the traditional balance between good and evil and throw the world into chaos.

This is similar to the premise of Little Nicky, an Adam Sandler abomination released in 2000, with Harvey Keitel as Satan, a role here taken by Peter Stormare. But of course Constantine, directed by Francis Lawrence in glossy music-video style from a script by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, takes itself much more seriously, with a few clumsy moments of attempted wit. Based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer, the movie tries for a stylized, expressionistic pop grandeur - the kind of eerie, dreamy visual environment that made the first Matrix so intriguing - but its look is sticky, murky and secondhand. Its plot unfolds according to the usual numbing alternation of special effects-aided jolts and portentous exposition, most of it involving spurious Bible verses and occultist mumbo jumbo.

Assisting Mr. Reeves are Rachel Weisz, as a Los Angeles police detective whose twin sister (also Ms. Weisz) has jumped off the roof of a hospital, and Shia LeBeouf, as Constantine's eager young sidekick and chauffeur. Djimon Hounsou plays a witch doctor and nightclub owner imaginatively named Midnite, Pruitt Taylor Vince plays an alcoholic priest imaginatively named Father Hennessy, and Tilda Swinton is the Angel Gabriel, adding a touch of high-class celestial cross-dressing to this overblown, overlong attempt - which falls just short of success - to make a movie dumber than Van Helsing.

Constantine is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has many scenes of gruesome violence and occult, demonic themes.


Opens today nationwide.

Directed by Francis Lawrence; written by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, based on characters from the DC/Vertigo Hellblazer graphic novels; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Wayne Wahrman; music by Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt; production designer, Naomi Shohan; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Erwin Stoff, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Akiva Goldsman; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 122 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Keanu Reeves (John Constantine), Rachel Weisz (Angela Dodson/Isabel), Shia LaBeouf (Chaz), Tilda Swinton (Gabriel), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Father Hennessy), Djimon Hounsou (Midnite), Gavin Rossdale (Balthazar) and Peter Stormare (Satan).

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Average Reader Rating      (3.45 stars, 42 votes)
Number of Reviews: 6

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Let us review., February 18, 2005

Reviewer: zencasey

Films based on comic books are just that. Requiring eloquent dialogue, expecting biblical accuracy, and asking the lead to be more animated than is necessary for a stern-faced comic book hero, is asking too much of this type of fare. If you are a fan of comic books, or if horror/action/apocalypse films in general appeal to you, you will find Constantine more entertaining than Yawn Helsing (ugh painful accents). It will surely suffer slings by comic book aficionados, as not dark enough - and arrows of film snobs, for lacking depth given the subject matter; but will certainly entertain most viewers for the price. If the franchise is lucky, leave audiences wanting inevitable sequels - merchandising, merchandising, merchandising. Both Rachel Weisz and Djimon Hounsou do well, but Pruitt Taylor Vince and Peter Stormare do much to bolster the believability of this fictional world with their nuanced, if small, performances. Both the wardrobes of Tilda Swinton and Gavin Rossdale bespeak the work of the divine, even if their performances do not. Keanu Reeves does a fine job and seems more relaxed in this messianic role than in previous incarnations. In short, if you are looking for elevated, intellectual examinations of demonology, the twists of life, love and mans' place in it, rent The Name of the Rose. If you like a smooth action adventure, a strong shot of the occult and a chaser of the one soul that the devil would visit earth to collect himself - then see Constantine.