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THE BIG EMPTY,
This review is from: Constantine [DVD] (DVD)
CONSTANTINE should not work, being so divorced from its original format - the VERTIGO comic HELLBALZER, and removed so completely from the dark wit, stark horror and charm found in the original John Constantine - who is the complete opposite of a Hollywood star like Keanu Reeves.
Constantine in HELLBALZER is not pretty, not sharp. He's shapelss, lacking grace, always on the edge - but knowing where he stands, fixed between the light and the dark and the only thing keeping him in balance are his instincts, double deals and knack for killing all the right people. And while some of this is carried over from comic to the screen - little of it makes a dent on Reeves performance (and if you want to see a near dead on perfomance of what Constantine is really like - check out James Marsters perfomance as SPIKE on both BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL). We all know the jokes about Reeves being wooden - and while it's true that you could almost pick up a splinter watching his performance here, it actually almost works. But both Reeves, and the film itself, are actually hostages to style - and it's here that CONSTANTINE shines.
Sterile, bleak and clean are three words you'll find yourself repeating as you watch the film. All the edges are sharp, all the light is harsh and the darkness is brutal. Colors are muted and often reduced to simple blacks and whites (and shades in between). But the stand out is Hell itself. While meant to be be horrific, the work done here is excellent (the movie gets a much needed surge in power and depth here), and you'll find yourself actually being drawn into the setting and want to know more. It amounts in the end to nothing more than a big tease (more questions than answers), but it does really help to keep you watching the film all the way through to the credits.
The story keeps to the straight and narrow. Reeves is the star, and he's surrounded mostly by pale ghosts from the comic. We get some names, we get some idea of their backgrounds and powers, but little is done with them. They're there to get him from one place to another, answer a few questions, uncover the right clues at the right time and to then die off or just disappear until a sequel. There's some attempt to build mystery and the film does try to build suspense... but can't maintain it since the Big Bad of the picture (the Son of the Devil and the Spear of Destiny) virtaully has to walk over five hundred miles before it can even remotely become a threat to Constantine or the world. By the time it finally arrives, both we and Constantine see it coming a long way off. But the movie does try to pull a fast one at the end with the real battle taking place between Constantine and Satan. Peter Stormare's performance here is like a heart attack - sudden, attention grabbing and turns the world upsdie down. There's a good reason why Reeves is already on the floor in these scenes, if he had been standing Stormare's passion for the part would have cut him off at the knees.
Overall Constantine is a sharp looking picture with a lot of soft focus characters and plot. It looks like a lot of films you've already seen (there's a strong DARK CITY vibe going on in the film), but holds enough water for it to be something worth watching. For the careful viewer who takes the time to tie in all the background images and visual clues there's more going on than meets the eye.
I only had the single disc editon here - so all the snazzy features and commentary are lost to me. The single disc does feature deleted scenes with optinal commentary, and while nice,(I like the original ending better - and felt that the one they used for the final film could have been blended into it easily and been that much more powerful for it) neither really add or subtract from the film.
In the end, CONSTANTINE works... but only just.