What is it about this film that makes me come back to it over and over again and to even buy it again on blu-ray? There are very few films that I will buy again on blu-ray, but amongst them are The Thing
, Blade Runner
and, when they come out, the Spaghetti Westerns
of Sergio Leone - and this.
I know there is a lot wrong with this film, but it keeps reminding me of The Dark Knight
which is another Warner Brothers film that I keep watching over and over. There are many similarities between them. No - not cast, director, crew or anything else that I can see on IMDB, but still both films have a fantastical film noir feel to them that, it seems, only Warner Brothers can do (other examples include, of course, The Matrix
and even, from 1974, The Exorcist
To start with, the sound tracks are similar. In both, a simple, insistent syncopated beat with largely acoustic instruments (violin, bass, guitar, marimba) is interspersed with moody orchestral chords. There are also one or two sound references to The Matrix, as when Isabel is standing on the roof of the hospital. Then there are several similar shots - such as rain shot from high-up looking down onto the protagonists. And the highly effective use of tinted filters is another seeming stock in trade for Warner Brothers films of this genre.
There are some excellent supporting performances. Apart from a mainly first class performance from Rachel Weisz, there is also Shia LaBeouf delivering a much better performance than he ever managed in the awful Transformers
films, Max Baker as 'Beeman', Djimon Hounsou as 'Midnite', the voodoo priest, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Constantine's deranged Catholic priest 'side-kick', Peter Stomare as 'Satan' and, of course, Tilda Swinton
as 'Gabriel'. Anything with Tilda Swinton in it is not going to be all bad! And that is far from an exhaustive list.
I have never read the graphic novels, so I came to this 'fresh', so to speak and I am impressed with the depth and multiple layers that the film manages to give to the story. Why does Detective Weiss spend the whole film with his arm in a sling? Clearly, this suicide is outside the normal, material, realms of earthly authorities. It is strange that both demons (Balthazar) and angels (Gabriel) share a taste for pin-stripe suits. At one point when Rachel Weisz's character (Angela Dodson) meets Constantine, she is filmed behind a wall of deep green glass, as though she is under water. Shortly after that, she is immersed for real, (baptised) in order to be able to see the hell her sister is in. Hell itself turns out to be a storm ravaged post-apocalyptic vision of Los Angeles, wrecked flyovers concealing Hieronymus Bosch
And, yes, we get to met Satan. The sheer banality of his evil is perfect; understated but with an aura of malice that fits right in with the cool fantastical horror of the whole story. And then Constantine - not the other DC Comic, Ayn Rand
-inspired billionaire techno-hero Batman, but a terrified man aware of his destiny, fighting it and, incidentally, doing 'good' along the way.
O.k. - it's not a Great film, but there's enough here to repay repeated viewing, enough here to leave you thinking.
One tip - maybe you know this already but this film, like The Dark Knight, has an English Dolby True HD soundtrack, but the disc defaults to 'ordinary' English Dolby 5.1 - you have to go into the language settings and select the True HD track.