February 28, 2005 12:00 PM

Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz


As he prepares to perform a grueling exorcism on a girl who has a demon inside her, John Constantine instructs her, “Close your eyes and, whatever happens, don’t look.” Viewers, however, should keep their peepers wide open while watching this muddled thriller. The highly stylized visuals are cool as they come, full of eye-bending visions of hell, glistening gallons of green water and angels with giant feathery wings. It’s the dialogue, plot and some of the acting that are problematic.

Based on the Hellblazer series of graphic novels, Constantine is a cross between hard-boiled detective story and supernatural hooey. Constantine (Reeves, as spectacularly cardboard as ever) is a contemporary, chain-smoking Philip Marlowe, except instead of tracking cheating spouses and murderers he hunts down demons passing for regular folk. When a police detective (Weisz, better than the film deserves) solicits his help in uncovering the truth behind her twin sister’s suicide, Constantine finds himself up to his wheezing lungs in Satan’s helpers.

Little of this proves engrossing but, as directed by music video whiz Francis Lawrence (Justin Timberlake‘s “Cry Me a River”), it sure looks fabulous. A major bright spot: Peter Stormare shows up late in the movie as Satan, resplendent in a white suit, and proceeds to chew scenery with devilish relish. (R)

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