John Keanu-stine

It seems by the time of Constantine, we see a real shift in trailer design. At least in this case we don’t have someone explaining the plot in a dramatic tone via voice over. Although, I guess we do, but it’s not the same.

Constantine is one of my favorite movies. It’s really quite good even though it had no right to be good. It’s based on a character named John Constantine who was created by Alan Moore during his Swamp Thing run, then later spun off into his own series called Hellblazer. Hellblazer was an alright comic, nothing I ever followed regularly.

John Constantine, in Hellblazer, is a kind of throwback film noir private detective, who looks like Sting (no seriously), who is also a magician (no seriously).

John Constantine (or as I call him: Keanustine) is sort of a film noir private detective (exorcist), who looks like Keanu, and who is kind of also a magician. In reality, he’s sort of a cross between a Border Guard and a mercenary. His job, working for the Angels (literally), is to deport any illegal immigrants to Earth (from Hell) back to Hell.

One of the things I like about this movie, and I realize I like in many movies, is the world building. There’s a real world that you or I would recognize, but beneath that world, or in the shadows of that world, is a realer yet magical world. A world with rules right out of a nursery rhyme. A world where prayers have immediate and tangible effects. A world where tattoos are potential weapons. A world populated with monsters who fear iron or salt.

There, Heaven and Hell have reached a kind of detente, where Earth has become kind of a buffer state between the two. Keanustine is a man sentenced to Hell for the sin of attempted suicide, now works for the Angels in an attempt to maintain the Balance of powers for the chance to go to Heaven. It’s kind of a shitty deal as you get the sense that what God wants from him is pretty dumb: he wants him to be selfless and altruistic so he can go to Heaven, in the light of the fact that he’s only working for Heaven for the chance to get to Heaven. It’s like not good enough to do the right thing, John has to think the right thing.

Into this walks Rachel Weiss, who had a twin sister killed by demons, and she draws John into a scheme to bring Moloch, the son of the Devil, into the world to seriously trash stuff.

I walked into this movie predisposed to hate it (how dare they deviate so far from the original material!) but walked out loving it. It won me over and I was an idiot fanboy at the time. It’s pretty impressive.

Keanu does a great job as the tormented Constantine. He’s never quite convincing as a badass in demeanor, but it’s easy to believe that Constantine is always trying to put up on a front. He’s a man quite aware that he isn’t as badass as his reputation, but is too caught up in it to back away. Plus he knows the rules and he games the rules hard. It’s not that he’s stronger or faster than the monsters he fights, he just knows how to rules lawyer harder than anyone around.

Then there’s Tilda Swinton as the Archangel Gabriel. Holy shit, this is amazing casting. I think she kills it playing an androgynous alien being. Kills it. Tilda Swinton is the best.

Oh, this movie also has the achievement of one of the best Lucifer characters portrayed in film. That even tops Al Pacino’s Lucifer in The Devil’s Advocate. Seriously, of all the things the movie brings to life, it’s the blue collar “Lou” and he’s fantastic.

I’d recommend this movie. I’d totally watch a sequel, though I doubt there will ever be one. I’m aware of the tv show that’s been made that’s more true to the source material, but I doubt I’ll get to it until it gets to Netflix.

EDIT:

The more I think about the more I realize that there’s something weirdly American about the use of “deport” during all of this. I’d say this movie is anti-immigration, yet every “immigrant” from Hell is bad. Then again, it’s not like John wants to be hunting these people, he’s just being effectively blackmailed by Heaven. I’m not sure what you can read into the parable.

Heaven and Hell, I suppose, could be seen as the greater powers in the world, and the real tragedy is the people caught in between. Hell immigrants have to be deported, and are deported by mercenaries like John who have to continually chase a carrot at the end of a stick. Everyone is kind of screwed.

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