Keanu Reeves isn’t much an actor. There I said it. I mean, someone has to say it, right? Surely the only way he has become so successful is due to some form of mass hypnosis?
He seems like a nice guy, and he does try in Constantine (“hmmm, I’m a chain-smoker, so I better make my voice extra gravelly this time”), but he just can’t carry it. It’s a shame, because a better actor could have brought far more gravitas to this role, and done better with the flashes of humour in the script that Reeves flattens. Ewan McGregor springs to mind. John Constantine is an interesting character with a lot of potential—a chain-smoking exorcist who ‘deports’ half-breed demons back to Hell. This film version is loosely based on a comic character that first appeared in Swamp Thing who looked like Sting and was of British working-class background (I told you it was loosely based).
First-time film director Francis Lawrence, whose previous experience has been in music videos, does a good job, refraining from hand-feeding us the story and bringing Constantine’s dark city streets to life. But the film is too long, dragging out the final denouement long past the point where we know what is going to happen. As a result I felt forced to sit and watch the last surprise-free, talky fifteen minutes play out, which overshadowed my enjoyment of the rest of the film. It’s a shame because most of the elements are there. The effects are excellent and not overplayed, there are some nice ideas and the world of the film feels consistent. Rachel Weiz does a good job as the woman trying to save her twin sister from eternal torment, but Tilda Swinton in particular shines with androgenous beauty and abrasive wit as the archangel Gabriel.
The film has been repeatedly compared with The Matrix because Keanu walks around in a black coat, but the real reason is that John Constantine seems like Thomas Anderson all over again—only with a more gravelly voice.
Three bugs out of five.