*/**** Image A+ Sound A+ Extras B
starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton
screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, based on the DC comic
directed by Francis Lawrence
by Walter Chaw The problem with casting Keanu Reeves in the role of DC Comics anti-hero John Constantine, a chain-smoking, blue-collar bloke who happens to have a foot in a supernatural parallel world occupied by angels and demons, is that because of the actor's ethereal--some would say "stoned"--demeanour, he never for a moment convinces that his is the sympathetic point of view. Imagine Robert Redford as Snake Plisskin, or Pierce Brosnan playing Ash in the Evil Dead films: Constantine, if they were insisting on an American actor, should have been Denis Leary. By inserting Reeves as your avatar, suddenly the whole shooting match is about CGI effects and impossible things doing impossible things (witness the last two Matrix films). But even without Reeves as the central distraction, Constantine avoids much of what made the "Hellblazer" mythology so compelling (that Lucifer is beautiful, that Constantine is genuinely an asshole instead of a lovable loser), with its worst crime coming in making the film something of an anti-smoking tract. Displaying the Surgeon General's warning centre stage in one fiery moment and having the hero quit in the movie's worst, most toadying, most cowardly joke, Constantine amounts to a straw man.