STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $30.98 RATED: R
RUNNING TIME: 121 Minutes
A Perfect Circle music video: "Passive"
Theatrical trailers
18 Minutes of deleted scenes, including alternate ending
Conjuring Constantine
The Production from Hell documentary gallery
Imagining the Underworld documentary gallery
Constantine Cosmology
Foresight: the Power of Previsualization
Exclusive collectible Hellblazer comic book

Constantine is a really good movie. I can say that without fear of pissing of the Vertigo fanboys because frankly, they’re wearing too much black for me to take seriously. You with the black and the really creepy faux vibe, go take a piss in the whirlwind. I like Constantine and am not afraid to admit it. I don’t care that Keanu isn’t British and I don’t care that it’s a glossy, polished movie.

It’s good. In fact, it’s quite good. Go punch yourself.

Oh yeah, and it’s on DVD now.

Even long after her death, Jolie just couldn’t stop adopting cute ethnic kids.

The Flick

The Spear of Destiny isn’t just some gadget from a Wolfenstein game after all. In fact it’s a rather powerful artifact from our own religious history, an item of considerable power and one which’s unearthing threatens the very fabric of mankind’s feeble grasp of supremacy on Earth. Thankfully, John Constantine’s out there to protect us all. Actually, he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about you or I. He’s more concerned with his own personal demons both figurative and literal and is content to drink his liquor, smoke his cigarettes, and battle the forces of evil at his pace. Until the shit hits the fan, that is.

"$300? But you promised to Give Us Free."

When the twin sister of a cop (Rachel Weisz) kills herself, it has ties to a diabolical plot involving demons, angels, and more and Constantine is dragged in the middle along with his cohorts, his spiritual gadgets, and one hunk of terminal lung cancer. For those who weren’t counting, that was FIVE commas. Heck yeah.

Constantine is based on DC’s edgy Vertigo book that was birthed from the pages of Saga of the Swamp Thing, but it features slightly better production values than the Wes Craven/Dick Durock epic. Just slightly. Actually, the thing that makes this thing more than a big budget The Prophecy is Francis Lawrence’s style and some truly amazing special effects. It’s also pretty damn ballsy for a big budget R-rated comic book movie, featuring truly frightening imagery and themes on its way towards a surprisingly somber and effective conclusion. Fanboys be damned at the “bubble gum” gag at the climax, this is the perfect example of how a sacred cow can be changed and still be good. Face it, short of getting a Paul Bettany starred vicious and uncompromising art film masquerading as a Hellblazer flick, this is about as good as it gets.

"Perhaps I should have voted for Kerry…"

Lawrence and his team of visual effects artisans pull back the curtain on a lot of things that supernatural films have shied away from for one reason or another: visions of Hell, really twisted demons, creatures made up of insects and vermin, and they are presented in a way that combines both the amazingly shot but vacant The Cell with some of the more memorable mainstream horror flicks in recent years. Mixed among the eye candy are some really class moments like the swan dive of the Weisz twin at the beginning, a brief look at a Bosch-like lower Hell, the sight of an angel stripped of glory, and terrific use of light and shadow when Constantine comes into contact with the creatures of the underworld.

Reeves performs the official The Matrix Reloaded hand gesture to fans of the original.

What surprises is that it’s not just pretty imagery, though. Reeves does a good job of portraying a mostly unlikable character, embracing the shadows and vices of Constantine without pulling the slacker aura people criticize him for and doing his best to not let his boyish looks sabotage him. From time to time he doesn’t take full command of the opportunities presented but ultimately delivers a performance stronger than anyone would have expected. It’s not Cruise in Interview with the Vampire, but it’s a good leading turn. The normally annoying Shia Lebouf acquits himself well, as does Weisz. Djimon Hounsou, Peter Stormare, and Tilda Swinton all seem to be having a blast in their supporting roles and even Bush frontman Gavin “I tap Stefani” Rossdale doesn’t punish the eyes nearly as much as he does the ears in his day job.

"Look I just opened up to this page and ordered Chinese and now I have some kid here who keeps telling me to ‘cover you heart Indy’. I want a refund."

The only major failing of the film is that it moves along its way without really generating much in the way of character depth and even though the plot concerns some rather lofty players in the cosmic game it never feels epic or enriching enough to compete with the great stuff from classic demonology in fiction and on celluloid. It doesn’t even reach for the current high water mark in comics on the subject in its source comic and Preacher. It’s good enough and it rides on the wicked visual work and a really nice vibe. It could have been a classic and it didn’t quite pull it off.

That said, it avoids many of the pitfalls in adaptations. It never explains the magic or artifacts that the characters use, only allowing its audience to be a fly on the wall as some bizarre shit goes down. You’re never told why the Spear of Destiny allows the young Mexican cat who finds it the ability to do some serious damage. It never explains how John Constantine knows what items to use when and what the little trinket he battles the possessed girl with, what he’s doing when he puts his arm tattoos together, and what the electric chair’s power is. They just ARE and it’s nice to see such a major flick not pander to its audience.

And it’s creepy. Some of the visuals here suggest that Francis Lawrence is more than just a cut above the next flashy music video director. He may not blow minds like Chris Cunningham and he may not have the mixture of quirk and pizzazz like Spike Jonze but he has serious chops. McG or Tarsem he ain’t.

Toby Keith’s true face revealed!

Constantine marks the arrival of a solid new franchise, a superb young director, the promise of good R-rated genre movies being made, and yet another notch in Keanu Reeves’ cinematic belt.

What the Hell else can the fanboys want?

8.1 out of 10

The effects of too much Glycerine.

The Look

"You don’t need me? I guess I’ll just return to issue #14 of Web of Spider-Man then.""

Utterly gorgeous. This is a really aggressively shot film and this transfer handles the jump from darkness to brightness to the inferno perfectly. It’s crisp but there’s nothing that indicates the cutting of corners. It’s a really pretty looking disc, definitely one to show off the system with. You can even see the very slight little signs of aging on Mr. Reeves as well as some of the imperfections in the special effects when the Balthazar character’s face is halved.

It’s damn nice.

10 out of 10

The Noise

Keanu enjoys the little toy he borrowed from Kobe Tai.

There’s no hot musical tracks in the film to speak of, despite the presence of the A Perfect Circle cut, so there’s not the typical thunderous rock or hip hop soundtrack to contend with. Instead, it’s just Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt’s effective and subtle music and hordes of freaky atmosphere. Dialogue comes through nice and crisp and the aural delivery goes a long way towards realizing the story’s creepier moments.

Basically, what we needed. The absence of a DTS track doesn’t bother me a bit.

9.5 out of 10

Every customer was special at Worthington’s Convenience Store.

The Goodies

This disc is loaded like Dave Davis at a Comic Con. The version I reviewed is the one which comes with a tiny reprint of a classic Hellblazer story as well as some new stuff but aside from that there’s a feature length commentary by the director, writers, and producer (Batman fan enemy Akiva Goldsman) as well as the aformentioned music video. The commentary track is pretty solid, though a little on the technical side and I’d have preferred they involve at least one actor to keep it from getting a little too focused on the technical details or the writing process. That the film turned out as good as it did definitely stems from these people, though, and it’s obvious they jumped some considerable hurdles. This track does a decent job all things considered but it’s not as fun and informative as one might hope.

Disc two is loaded with featurettes that make up for the commentary. The deleted scenes (available with commentary) are for the most part excellent and an alternate ending featuring a surprisingly resonant coda for one of the characters should have been tacked on after the credits in the theatrical edition. It’s terrific. Additionally, there’s a really cool and sexy subplot involving a female demon that I was sorry to see omitted from the film. There was some really nifty stuff that didn’t make it into the film.

The featurettes are all solid, covering mostly technical aspects but also discuss the tough transition from page to screen as well as some of the more theological aspects of the film. None of them are extremely long but all do a good job in showcasing the work that went into making the film more than just an opportunistic endeavor.

Nice job, Warners!

8.0 out of 10

The Artwork

.Once again, not much to complain about here.

The outer package has a nice image of our hero and the opposing forces of light and dark flanking him. Underneath is a nice snapper case with the same image and it’s all tastefully done.

The theatrical poster wasn’t to die for, so this is a case where it wasn’t a sacrelige to go a different way. Even nicer than this is the packaging for the non-deluxe edition, a DVD that features more red and black in its design.

All told, it’s a win/win.

8.0 out of 10

Overall: 9.0 out of 10