‘Constantine’ with Keanu Reeves on Netflix

Keanu Reeves is Constantine in the 2005 film based on the graphic novel 'Hellblazer'

As fans of the cult comic book Hellblazer will tell you, Keanu Reeves doesn’t look or act much like comic book anti-hero John Constantine in Constantine (2005), the big screen version of the story of the streetwise supernatural hustler. He does, however, cut a memorable figure with his lockjaw resolve and iconic wardrobe, playing the cynical, chain-smoking demon hunter as God’s tarnished holy warrior, doomed to Hell for a past sin and desperately trying to win his way into God’s favor.

The plot is the usual apocalyptic stuff—prophecies, Armageddon, a demonic conspiracy to unleash Hell on Earth—but the world of Constantine is an intriguing collision of the Old Testament and H.P. Lovecraft. Rachel Weisz is miscast as a hard-boiled homicide cop but Reeves gets solid support from Tilda Swinton as a scheming Angel Gabriel (all androgynous beauty and sly smiles) and Peter Stormare (showboating with demented delight) as Satan.

Francis Lawrence, a former video music director who made his feature debut with this film, favors image over narrative in his feature debut and keeps the story on track through the inconsistencies and fudged details. Days are seared by burning sunlight, nights swallow the world and bring out the demons, and Hell is an Earth burning in the nuclear fires of Armageddon. In such a world, Keanu’s doomed Constantine makes for an interesting figure: a man who has knowledge but lacks faith. Shia LaBeouf and Djimon Hounsou co-star.

The character was revived for a short-lived TV series starring Matt Ryan in the role of Constantine and he indeed matched the comic book incarnation down to the bleached hair and British accent, though the show never got past its initial run (despite a very active fan campaign to save the series). And filmmaker Francis Lawrence went on to helm the last three Hunger Games movies.

Queue it up

Don’t miss a single recommendation. Subscribe to Stream On Demand to receive notifications of new posts (your E-mail address will not be shared) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Sean Axmaker

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

Related posts