CONSTANTINE was not the smash hit of the spring that everyone was anticipating. Financially, it was surpassed by THE PACIFIER, ROBOTS, ARE WE THERE YET? and THE RING TWO. Maybe that’s because audiences still had a bad MATRIX aftertaste and the film looked stylistically very similar. Advertising unwisely played up the large-scale special effects and the star power of Keanu Reeves. (Attention Hollywood: The right film makes Keanu look great, not the other way around.) The film more than doubled its gross overseas and has done much better here as a rental item, which is how I recently viewed the picture.
You know what? It’s really impressive, with a clever story and some superb directing by first-timer Francis Lawrence. Lawrence comes from a music video background, and like David Fincher and Michel Gondry before him, this guy knows how to adapt to the long form. While the movie does contain wall-to-wall special effects, the picture’s style is a sustained, slow burn not a quick-cut, sugar rush.
Many special effects put the emphasis on the “special”, fitting the story without dominating. Watching CONSTANTINE, I realized how much easier an effects picture is to enjoy when they take the time to seamlessly blend the digital images into the real world. The images help pull you into the fantasy, whereas bad special effects remind you that you’re watching a movie.
Keanu Reeves fits into this world like a glove. His character is a brooding, morose loner, and Keanu wisely instills Constantine with a professionalism towards his work that commands respect. Fifteen years after BILL & TED, Keanu’s acting ability is still a source of debate. Now, I’m not saying that Oscar is in his future, but I think by now we have to at least give him respect for being a terrific movie star. And he knows how to pick a good story.

Keanu’s supported by uniformly strong work by a sometimes uneven cast of familiar faces. Many of the characters could easily have been pitched over the top. – we’re talking angels and demons here – but Lawrence does just as good a job with the cast as he does with the effects.

While writing this review, my thoughts keep coming back to the movie’s opening scenes. There’s a combination of sound, effects and genuine surprise you just don’t find much from mainstream Hollywood. CONSTANTINE shows an exhilarating world that’s exciting to visit and if you haven’t gotten on board yet, the weekend is coming. Give it a rent.


Blogger Josh Millard said...

"Keanu’s supported by uniformly strong work by a sometimes uneven cast of familiar faces."

How can work that is uniformly strong also be sometimes uneven, goddammit?

You are not getting paid by the word, are you?

9:11 AM  
Blogger Cutshaw said...

This may have been some poor wording on my part (which I did in an effort to lower my word count). The cast contains some actors who like to go big like Pete Stormare and Djimon Honsou and others like Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton who tend to underplay their parts. Here, everyone is at an even pitch.

12:22 PM  

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