( R )
Damned good fun: Reeves scares up thrills in `Constantine'
Review by James Verniere
Friday, February 18, 2005
Move over, Hellboy.
In ``Constantine,'' Keanu Reeves, fresh from battling the evil machines of ``The Matrix,'' takes on demons from hell who have the power to enter our realm. It's a supernatural thriller for our terrorist-bedeviled times, if not a training film for the Department of Homeland Security.
Based on the Vertigo/DC Comics' ``Hellblazer'' series, the film, which is set in present-day Los Angeles, might be described as mysticism for headbangers. It's also a kind of B-movie follow-up to ``The Passion of the Christ'' insofar as some of it is in Latin, it's about redemption and is steeped in Roman Catholic beliefs, apocrypha, icons and rituals, beginning with that favorite Catholic horror movie staple, the exorcism.
It also has a female version of the angel Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton.
It's interesting to note that there's even sympathetic interest in the movie in Baptist circles. Also, blogger Tim Bulkeley and his teenage son saw it and Tim thinks "it could provide the stimulus for lots of good theological discussion, and even an old-fashioned revivalist appeal to conversion." And there's already a spinoff video game.
UPDATE: Chuck Jones e-mails:
For another take on Constantine have a look at David Denby's review
in The New Yorker and in particular the final few sentences:
"..."Constantine" turns Catholic doctrine, ritual, and iconography
into schlock. God's warrior wins, but is that enough to justify the
tawdry, promiscuous borrowing? Will the trashy exploitation of
Catholicism in movies ever end? Imagine a Jewish version of the
spectacle-"Angel," starring Vin Diesel, in which God's messenger
stays Abraham's hand in mid-sacrifice and then earns His approval by
lowering himself into cursed pharaonic tombs with tied-together
prayer shawls. In a Hindu version-"Vishnu," with Nicolas Cage-Shiva
unleashes his snakes on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie and starts a
war between truck drivers and apple pickers. Somehow, I think these
projects might be shelved. Yet terrible movies like "The Exorcist"
and "The Passion of the Christ" and "Constantine" get made and become
enormously popular. I will leave the issue of blasphemy to experts.
But maybe some of the audience should wonder if they aren't
performing the Devil's work by sitting so quietly through movies that
turn wonders into garbage."