Ponder this for a moment:
John Constantine in the Vertigo Comic series was a blonde Englishman. Who would you recommend for the role in the movie? Keanu Reeves? Well if that’s your answer you’re obviously a studio big wig twat who can’t see common sense through the benjamins being waved in front of his face.
This blunder may sound like nitpicking to some of you out there, but believe me it’s not. Keanu is in fact the only thing standing between Constantine and a good movie. Now, Mr Reeves has had some good roles in the past, and Speed and Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure would be among those. But in both films (and indeed The Matrix series) he played a character who had no idea what was going on around him. He’s good at doing that… very convincing. But here we have exorcist/paranormal investigator/über anti-hero John Constantine, and he definitely knows what’s what. Thus Keanu is terrible in this role. He tries, oh how he tries… but it’s still not enough.
What would have been wrong with, say Paul Bettany? He’s up and coming, would have cost the studio less and I’m sure would have played the lead role perfectly. More importantly he’s English, so I’m sure he’d have a decent go at the accent too. (Plus he does a good blonde).
What makes Keanu’s presence in this film so much worse is that the supporting cast is superb. Tilda Swinton is fantastic as always, playing the part she was born to play. Her Gabriel truly shines opposite the stunted thespiating of Keanu. (See I’m even making up words, that’s how angry I am.) Swinton is one of those actors that manages to coast from blockbusters such as The Beach to arthouse films like The War Zone, always leaving the audience dying for more. Djimon Hounsou is fantastic as Midnite, and Peter Stormare takes an often coveted role and truly makes it his own.
The script is pretty good, and certainly much better than the majority of recent comic adaptations (Hellboy springs to mind). The film starts with a bang, and sags about three quarters of the way through before picking up right at the end. One of the best aspects of Constantine is that very little time is spent on blatant exposition we’ve come to expect in mindless special effects movies.
I’m hoping that Constantine will be successful enough to get more of the Vertigo titles to the big screen. I’m sure everyone’s dying for a film version of ‘The Sandman’, although ‘Preacher’ would inevitably be toned down, and ‘The Invisibles’ would simply NEVER get made in the Hollywood studio system.Rating: