Based upon the popular DC comic "Hellblazer", "Constantine" had all the elements of success - or at least cult success - a picture about one guy trying to save Earth, which is in the middle of a battle between Heaven and hell. The guy being John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a reluctant hero who manages to see through different beings in the world and spot bad spirits. Constantine, unfortunately, also is suffering from lung cancer due to smoking since he was young - and the outlook doesn't look good.
Meanwhile, Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz, who makes for a nice pairing with Reeves) is a cop investigating the death of her twin sister. Apparently, it had something to do with the discovery of the spear of destiny, an object that can bring great power to whoever gets control of it. There's also something about a battle between Heaven and hell, and the fact that Constantine is working to spiritually redeem himself by sending demons back to where they came from. Throw into that pot the archangel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) and demon Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale, former lead singer of the band Bush.)
In other words, the plot doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot - the movie only tries to get across the general idea and goes from there. While the plot is a bit of a mess, I was at least encouraged by the fact that the picture was trying. In a sea of repetitive, cookie-cutter pictures coming out, to see a studio picture this bizarre, this dark, at least meant that I was never not quite involved with this flick.
The feature debut of music video helmer Francis Lawrence, "Constantine" looks great - the picture has a strong visual style and yet isn't edited in rapid-fire fashion. The CGI effects aren't 100%, but they are still very effective. Also helping matters is Reeves who, while not offering a tremendous performance, is still better here than he's been in a while. Weisz and many others (Rossdale is surprisingly good in a moderate-sized role) add fine supporting efforts.
While not something that's going to win any awards, "Constantine" was a rather wild, entertaining picture that I found consistently engaging.
VIDEO: "Constantine" is presented in 2.40:1 (1080p/VC-1) by Warner Brothers. While not without a couple of little issues, this was largely an outstanding transfer that did an excellent job presenting the film's bold, ultra-slick style. Sharpness and detail are often astonishing; even in the film's many dark/dimly-lit moments, fine details are usually still clearly visible.
Although a couple of minor instances of noise are spotted, the film otherwise looks impressively clean and clear, with no edge enhancement, print flaws or other additional concerns. The film's rich color palette is presented superbly here, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other concerns. Lots of subtitle options: English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.
SOUND: While the film looks just terrific on this Blu-Ray release, it also sounds (in Dolby TrueHD 5.1) nothing short of remarkable, too. Given the supernatural events of the movie, there are no shortage of instances of otherworldly sound effects swirling around the listing space. Surrounds kick in early and often, providing some eerie and effective sound effects and ambience. Audio quality is quite good, with sound effects that seem dynamic and dialogue that remained clean and clear. Some instances of strong, deep bass are also present during the most intense sequences. We also get Dolby Digital 5.1 presentations in French, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese.
EXTRAS: Two commentaries are offered: one with screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello and the other with director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. The latter has the duo providing a relatively low-key (if still moderately interesting) discussion regarding elements such as the inspiration for certain story elements, working with the cast, elements that were not used in the final film and some discussion of the production issues behind some of the major scenes. The two writers, who are a little more animated, provide a fine discussion of the writing process.
A series of featurettes ("Channeling Constantine", "Conjuring Constantine", "Director's Confessional"), "Collision With Evil", "Holy Relics", "Shotgun Shootout", "Hellscape", "Visualizing Vermin", "Warrior Wings", "Unholy Abduction", "Constantine's Cosmology", "Foresight: The Power of Previsualization", "Demon Face" and "Writer's Vision" are included. These featurettes run as much as several minutes each and do a fine job exploring different aspects of the production. Altogether, these featurettes add up to a feature-length and in-depth look at the making of the film. It is rather bizarre, however, that there is no "play all" option.
We also get 18 minutes of deleted scenes, the teaser and theatrical trailer, as well as a music video (for Perfect Circle's "Passive".) Finally, we get an optional picture-in-picture feature ("In-Movie Experience") that displays behind-the-scenes footage at points throughout the film.
Final Thoughts: "Constantine" got a bit of a mixed reception when it hit theaters, but I found it to be a weird and interesting picture that consistently kept my attention. The Blu-Ray edition offers outstanding audio & video quality (an improvement over the presentation quality on the DVD), as well as a large set of supplements. Recommended.
The Film B