Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Not-So-Scary 'Constantine' Could've Been Much Better

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Not-So-Scary 'Constantine' Could've Been Much Better

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel, Times-Union staff writer

Constantine is an enjoyably nutty mess of a comic-book movie, and toward the end it reaches a sort of cockeyed majesty mixed with outright laughability.

It's an odd creature indeed.

But long after it's consigned to the farthest corner of the video store, Constantine could still live on, in edited form, as the ultimate anti-smoking public service announcement.

Keanu Reeves, as demon-dispatcher John Constantine, looks appropriately hard-bitten in his black Matrix jacket and tie, chain-smoking cigarettes and brooding on the seedy streets of L.A.

Then he starts hacking up blood, and a doctor gives him the news: terminal lung cancer.

"Make arrangements," the doctor tells him.

"No need," he mutters. "I already know where I'm going."

That would be hell, a broiling hell where demons feast on your flesh for eternity when they're not producing Jerry Springer's TV show and sending out e-mails for Viagra and cut-rate mortgages.

Constantine's been to hell already, but he's back now and is getting clued into a big new development: The demons in hell are starting to pop up topside, with designs on taking over the world.

That sounds good so far. But the movie, it seems to me, has a big problem: If you're telling a story about Satan's minions threatening to overrun the earth, you'd think it would be, well, scary, wouldn't you?

Constantine is occasionally semi-exciting. Sometimes intriguing. Often dryly funny. Almost always eye-catching, in a washed-out noirish way, with some fine special effects.

But chilling? Not even close.

The movie is based on DC Comics' Hellblazer series, though it takes considerable liberties with it (for one thing, the chain-smoking Englishman of the comics has been turned into a chain-smoking Yank).

In the early scenes especially, director Francis Lawrence, a music-video veteran, finds some eye-catching angles that look like exaggerated comic-book scenes come to life. …

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