on 23 May 2005
It seemed, when details of the casting for this film were released, that the minds of a million nerdy Hellblazer fans (me included) exploded in disbelief and anger. Keanu Reeves as John Constantine!! That's Keanu 'dark hair, American' Reeves as very English ex-punk, chain-smoker and Sting lookalike John Constantine!!! Eh, how's that gonna work?? we cried, and scratched our heads bemusedly.
Well, i have to say, i think the film is good. It's darker than most Hollywood productions, which is always welcome, and it does try valiantly to stick to some aspects of the comics. The biggest mistake made here is definately the changes in the character of Chas (shameful!), and not the casting of Keanu!
The premise is one fairly familiar to those who read comics of any sort i'd imagine, not a particularly in-depth plot, but one that adheres to JC's character very well, and draws on the Dangerous Habits story-lines. Basically, after trying to commit suicide, he is attempting to gain his place in heaven back by killing demons running free on Earth. He encounters a young cop, played by Rachel Weisz, who needs help investigating the strange death of her twin sister. Never fear though, this meeting does not herald the beginning of yet another dull, vacuous, pointless Hollywood love interest story-line. JC would much rather kiss a Marlboro than a girl, ya see!!
As the film goes on, a bigger plot is unveiled, involving the resurrection of the Devil's own son, here on Earth. There's a nice little acting debut from Gavin Rossdale as the snappy-dressing demon Balthazar, and a quite true-to-the-comics depiction of Papa Midnight by the great Djimon Hounsou.
For me, though the acting honours go to the superb Tilda Swinton as the Angel Gabriel. She is highly believable as a sex-less, age-less being such as an angel, and her softly-spoken, subtle acting style perfectly depicts Gabriel as the dangerous and devious character he/she is.
This is a good film on it's own merit, and i don't think it matters if you've read any of the comics, when it comes to this film. This isn't the definitive JC remember, and for that, i think you have to stick to the stories, after all he's a literary character, and maybe he needs to stay that way...
So, Hellblazer fans shouldn't watch this with too many expectations, but if you keep an open mind you might just find yourself enjoying a dark, twisted, interesting film of merit.
So, Keanu Reeves then?
You know, he isn't that bad as JC it has to be said. I mean, he isn't JC, but he does a fair job of nailing a few of the great man's traits, he's certainly moody and bitter. He maybe scowls and tries to look intense a bit too much, but i think this could have ended up a hell of a lot worse than it does. I did miss the biting humour/sarcasm of the real JC in Reeve's performance, which was actually pretty humourless, maybe lapsing into Neo-land a bit too frequently, a bit too much action hero and not enough anti-hero perhaps. But it could have been worse, in my opinion.
All in all, an interesting, dark film, which doesn't capture the comic book hero, but maybe just puts a different spin on him, to entice new readers into the Hellblazer realm, which can't be bad.