Let’s leave the bitching about the deviation from source material aside, shall we?
That sounds odd coming from me given my untempered rage at X-Men Origins: Wolverine and my deep longing for Deadpool to be as close to the comics as possible, but let’s face it: Hellblazer (the comic series that Constantine was based on) was going to be changed, like it or not, given the religious subject matter and John Constantine’s actual behavior in the comics.
Constantine begins with the suicide of Isabel, a troubled young woman who believes she can see angels and demons. Her twin sister Angela is a detective who is convinced her devoutly Catholic sister could never contemplate an act that would sentence Isabel to a lifetime in hell. Angela tracks down a reluctant John Constantine, a bitter exorcist who loathes the hand that life dealt him. It’s only when Constantine gets an inkling of what’s really at stake that he jumps into action.
I don’t find Constantine to be guilty at all; I really enjoy it, for what it’s worth. (I went to see it in the theater by myself, which is a rare happening given that I hate seeing movies by myself.) My annoying and not at all charming bias for Keanu Reeves may be showing, but he didn’t do a half-bad job at playing a world-weary, cancer-stricken jerk with a capacity for redemption. Rachel Weisz does a fairly good job given the fact save for a scene where she comes back from a short jaunt to hell, but who’s counting? And Shia LaBeouf pops up as an annoying assistant to Constantine, pre-Transformers. Shit, Gavin Rossdale – Mr. Stefani and frontman of Bush, who I was fond of in my junior high days – makes an appearance as a villain. Who would have thought, huh?
Constantine does ascribe a very Catholic view of things to its universe. The special effects aren’t wonderful, but they’re not terrible either; the story’s fairly bland at times but hey, you get Peter Stormare as the Devil! (It’s worth it to watch just for Stormare’s appearance. No lie.)
If we’re chalking it up to guilty pleasures, I’d say that Keanu Reeves’ performance is enjoyable in an unironic way, which makes it difficult for some people to admit. I’d say that it’s fun while being ridiculous; that Tilda Swinton is made of awesome and was perfect casting as an androgynous angel is a good pleasure point, if you will. The twisty-looking plot isn’t all that twisty; if you sat through a couple of Catholic masses and a few episodes of Murder, She Wrote you’ll see the ending coming but the cast makes it fun while you’re waiting for the climax.
All in all, a nice escapist movie for a rainy weekend, I think.