‘Constantine’ typecasts Reeves in another good-vs.-evil flick | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Constantine’ typecasts Reeves in another good-vs.-evil flick

Keanu Reeves plays John Constantine, a world-traveling, mage-like misfit who investigates supernatural mysteries, walking a thin line between evil and good, in "Constantine."

As Keanu Reeves enters the fourth decade of his life, he can take solace in the fact that he has had a career with its share of ups and downs. Not that he hasn’t challenged himself along the way (Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” comes to mind), but his roles tend to limit him to what he seems to do best – and that is battling evil, mostly. In “The Devil’s Advocate,” Keanu played quite the lawyer, winning his cases but losing his soul. In the “Matrix” trilogy as Neo, Keanu proved he was the “One” and battled evil in the cyberworld. With these credentials on his résumé, he had the solid background needed for his latest outing, “Constantine.”

Based on the characters of “Hellblazer” (from DC-Vertigo Comics), Reeves plays Los Angeles detective John Constantine, the anti-hero who represents everything wrong in this world … and he is the good guy here! Battling demons in his own life, and for points that may get him to a higher place, Constantine was cursed (or blessed?) as a child with the power to see things in the spiritual and supernatural world. Quite a bit for a kid to handle, so he’s driven to make himself part of that world and is forever damned because of it. His punishment is eternal damnation unless he can rid Earth of those evil demons that walk among us, be it half-angels or worse. Call him the Demon Hunter, if you will, but Heaven may not want him because of his past sins. Pretty creepy when you ponder it all. There are no guarantees in the afterlife.

Religious overtones are prevalent everywhere here (as with most good-vs.-evil scenarios), so it helps to stay focused on the tools that enlighten. There’s the “The Spear of Destiny” (devilish overtones), which reminded me of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with all these clues everywhere that supposedly ward off Satan and his son. Son? Yes! They always seem to have offensive offspring in these plots, though not as bad as Adam Sandler’s “Little Nicky” (now that was hell!).

The comic book character is way darker than the movie version here, but you get the idea that the chain-smoking, hard-boozing, self-centered, bad-language individual that is Constantine is not Heaven-sent. Also, the comic book character is from Liverpool, whereas in the movie he’s from L.A. Big difference right there.

At times director Francis Lawrence seems overwhelmed, with the stories, the computer effects and a cast that I admit is impressive. All of these worlds collide and it is Lawrence’s job to direct it all and make some sense of it. He gets a B- for his efforts.

The plot does jump around, and even I was somewhat confused at the overlapping of subplots, but hey, when it’s a horror flick I guess it doesn’t matter that much. The one bright spot throughout, though, is Rachel Weisz as fellow detective Angela Dodson, who enlists Constantine for some personal help. For a brief time we get two Rachels, because she also plays her twin sister. She, too, becomes involved with the demons at hand, and is the object of a good-vs.-evil tug-of-war. The other cast members include Shia LaBeauf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin McGregor Rossdale, Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare.

Keanu Reeves has come a long way since his “Bill & Ted” days, but his range as an actor is still limited, as evident here. He has a presence, no doubt, and that carries him through most of the picture, but I’ll be damned (oops – shouldn’t say that regarding this flick) if they’ll make a sequel.

– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys every Tuesday through Sunday, and the comedian for The X Show every night except Monday. Howie appears on seven radio stations every Friday morning (including KOZZ 105.7) reviewing movies in California and Nevada.

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