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Laramie Movie Scope:

High-powered apocalyptic thriller

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 19, 2005 -- “Constantine” is a cut above the typical apocalyptic thrillers that rolled off the assembly line with regularity in 1999. It's got eye-popping special effects and a better-than-average storyline and competent acting by Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix” movies) in the title role of John Constantine, a man with a sixth sense trying to work his way out of a date with hell. Also starring in this “Hellblazer” comic-inspired story is Rachel Weisz of “Runaway Jury,” who plays Angela Dodson, a police detective obsessed over the untimely death of her twin sister Isabel.

Constantine battles semi-demons with the aid of three sidekicks, taxi driver and would-be exorcist Chas Chandler (Shia LaBeouf of “I Robot”), an alcoholic psychic priest, Father Hennessy (Pruitt Taylor Vince of “Identity”), and nerdish expert in the occult, Beeman (Max Baker of “The Time Machine”). Just when it looks as if Dodson is about to join this already formidable team, a powerful hellish force begins murdering members of the team. Constantine must find out who is behind these attacks if the world is to survive hell on earth.

According to the mythology of this story, there is a delicate balance between the forces of heaven and hell. The earth is off limits to either divine or Satanic direct intervention, but indirect influence is allowed. Angels and demons both appear on earth, but there is no direct confrontation between good and evil, as such. It is more like a war by proxy with Constantine, and the rest of humankind caught in the middle. The lone representative of heaven, the angel Gabriel (played by Tilda Swinton of “Adaptation”) is ambiguous at best. The top representative of evil, Satan, (played by Peter Stormare of “Chocolat”) is also somewhat ambiguous.

The story plays some lip service to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but also introduces fanciful elements such as a Satanic version of the Bible. All in all, the story holds together pretty well, as long as you are not looking for some literal interpretation of Christian beliefs. This is definitely more along the lines of a parallel universe of the type seen in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Besides the story, the main thing going for the movie are the effects, which are spectacular at times and always impressive. The production design by Naomi Shohan and art direction by David Lazan (“Tears of the Sun”), and entire look of this movie is first-rate. This film rates a B.

For more information on this film, including video clips, downloads, synopsis, mobile, click on this link to the official home page of Constantine.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)