One of the problems with movies based on comic books is having to share the theater with audiences that look like they were just kicked out of Nerd-Con. Just before the lights dimmed, I scored the following on my own personal "nerd bingo" card: "Daredevil" T-shirt, orthodontic headgear, jumbo bag of Transformer gummies, holstered light saber, "Magic: The Gathering" playing cards, man-boobs. It was all fun and games until man-boobs decided to sit next to me and have fun collecting his sweat in a cup.
I don't know what it will take to exhaust Hollywood's appetite for turning lame comic books into lame movies, but "Constantine" may be the mouthful that pushes the industry over the edge into acute nausea. This movie's particular source text is a comic book called "Hellblazer" and it covers the adventures of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a bounty hunter of sorts who can travel between the real world and the underworld. His job is to send ill-behaved demons back to their fiery domain, play by his own rules, and flip his cigarette lighter on and off like a sullen adolescent.
Constantine's friends include a hard-drinking Catholic priest (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a precocious young assistant (Shia LaBoeuf), a gear collector who's sort of like a paranormal "Q" (Max Baker), and Angela (Rachel Weisz), a cop who's investigating the apparent suicide of her twin sister. Angela is a street-smart skeptic initially wary of Constantine's tales of the supernatural, but in no time she's trusting her new creepy occult friend to hold her down in a bathtub full of water to see if she can get a glimpse of hell. Now that's just good police work. Her other contributions include saying things like, "No! I'm going with you!" and forgetting to wear the special necklace that can protect her from being haplessly snatched by demons.
Though director Francis Lawrence tries to make a serious movie, "Constantine" lapses into some comic-book moments that make it hard not to roll your eyes. You know the movie's brief discussion of Catholic doctrine is over when Constantine whips out a golden, cross-adorned Tommy gun infused with holy firepower. Granted, this is a more ass-kicking vision of Catholicism than its current real-world incarnation. If the church spent less time emphasizing the wheezy old men pushing collection plates to pay off their pedophilia settlements, and more time emphasizing the golden, demon-slaying Tommy gun, I'd wager that church membership would shoot through the roof.
If you want a vision of hell, try looking for your reflection on the screen as you watch this bad seed.
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