Pros: Good effects, some resemblance to the comic in the writing
Cons: Keanu + Hollywood = Crap X 2
There are times I feel like Keanu Reeves has stolen the greatest roles of my generation and wasted them all. Actually, I feel like that anytime I stop to think about it.
I have never been a huge Hellblazer comics fan (that's the VERTIGO label comic book this movie is based on). But I have read a couple dozen of them - enough to know why they were cool and what the title character is all about. Why anyone would entrust this role to Keanu is beyond me.
It's not that bad a film overall. There is some okay writing. You can tell the screenplay has traces of the John Constantine we know from the pages of the comics. The special effects are amazing: heat-distorted visions of hell that leave you breathless, creatures and dreamscapes of dark imagination brought to life quite convincingly.
I was almost saddened by the high quality of the effects. Because hanging them from another crap Keanu Reeves vehicle is such a giant waste of the technology and talent that create them. What do the industry's best animators think of retouching a scene starring someone who doesn't pass the most basic acting muster? They must cringe. And I don't blame them.
What's so bad about Keanu Reeves?
For one thing, he acts entirely with his mouth. He speaks lines. He doesn't convey them with his face, his body, his breathing. He's this half-brained guy who you can tell has had to work like mad just to memorize his lines. And when they come out of his face, you can feel him straining to remember, line by line, the script he's had to memorize. It's really awful. I am embarrassed every time he speaks. It's not even horrible acting. It's an utter lack of acting. How this guy gets through all the casting filters in the entire film industry into new roles is beyond me. I suppose they bow to his "following" (whoever you people are) and just keep putting him in front of the camera.
Constantine fails to realize the comic's gritty appeal. It works visually. It works in the writing (nothing great but definitely characteristic and in-tune as Hellblazer). I hate to keep saying it, but Keanu just ruins it. It's also kind of stupid that he runs around with a woman the whole movie (he's usually a totally self-interested solo operator). But the real failing is in his inability to embody the title character. The scene where Keanu stares into his best friend's eyes AS HE DIES and shows about as much expression as a mildly constipated man trying to pass gas... it's just insulting. They PAY him for this?
Even Brad Pitt would be better. He's got the ability to be gritty and dirty when he tries. With Keanu, you just keep seeing Neo on the screen and wondering why he seems to have a weird accent. Are you okay, Neo? Why are you smoking? (That's another thing: Neo can't stage-smoke to save his life). Maybe Hugh Jackman or Johnny Depp would be better. I'm not sure who would be the ideal John Constantine, except a 35-year-old Jack Nicholson. HE would be PERFECT.
This is, in the end, a pretty average little Hollywood outing. It presumes to grit, but never really achieves it. The effects are awesome - real dreamscapes of terror. But, of course, it degenerates into boy-rescues-girl and the usual orgy-of-violence we should all expect from Hollywood by now. The comic is much cooler by far and I highly recommend it, especially if the film caught your attention in any way.
Otherwise: nothing to see, here. Move along.