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Hellishly dull plot dooms ‘Constantine’

Ryan Rogers | Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Continuing the trend of adapting comic books into movies, “Constantine” fails to stand out from the other films of its genre.John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with the curse of seeing angels and demons among the living. As a boy unable to cope with these visions, he attempts suicide and is only dead for two minutes. Afterward, Constantine has a better perspective on the way the world works. He knows about the existence of heaven and hell and the battle of good versus evil. Now he spends his days performing exorcisms in hopes that they will redeem him in the eyes of God and help to earn his way into heaven. But because Constantine’s suicide was a mortal sin, he is destined for hell – and, as a chain smoker, he has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer.As if this weren’t enough to handle in one film, Constantine then discovers the devil’s son is planning to come to Earth and bring hell with him. This, of course, requires strange rituals involving the Dodson twins (both played by Rachel Weisz) and the spear of destiny (the spear that is said to have killed Jesus Christ).This film is based on exploring a very distinct set of rules, none of which are clear to the viewer. This fatal flaw leaves the audience with more questions on the way out of the theater than on the way in. Sure, the effects are fun, but it is hard to enjoy them while constantly asking, “what the heck is going on?”The script for “Constantine” needed a lot more work. Aside from simply not communicating what is necessary to advance the story, it tries to tackle too much. The back-story is so complex that a wholly separate film detailing the origin of John Constantine would have been more appropriate. Instead, you get a half-baked plot added on that the audience never fully understands or really cares about.It is difficult to tell if the script is responsible for the bad acting or not. Reeves delivers his one-liners with expected gusto. Weisz is nothing special, just another skeptical partner that is all too willing to take Constantine’s leaps of faith. Shia LaBeouf plays Constantine’s apprentice and serves his purpose as cheap comic relief. Gavin Rossdale inexplicably plays a darkly humorous demon that has it out for Constantine. The best performance comes from Djimon Hounsou as Midnite, the owner of a nightclub in which both angels and demons are welcome. Midnite is the only character that seems to have more than one character trait and more than one brain cell.There are some redeeming qualities about “Constantine.” Stylistically, it is flashy and fun to watch, which is to be expected from Francis Lawrence, a popular music video director turned film director. There is also an effort to stay true to the film’s comic book roots, with a lot of picturesque slow motion shots and extreme angles that look like pages straight out of comics.One of the film’s biggest detractions is its overtly religious and often sacrilegious nature. A lot of Catholic icons are juxtaposed with vulgarities like the middle finger, which may offend some viewers.When all is said and done, “Constantine” kills itself. The film has some basic appeal but fails to execute on nearly all of its fronts.