Hellacious Acres, sung by rock star John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson) at the height of his popularity in the 1976 remake of A Star is Born, pretty much sums up Constantine, another epic Hollywood struggle between the forces of good and evil.

With Keanu Reeves as the star, it’s difficult to know who to root for. After failing to pipe the payer in The Devil’s Advocate, Reeves goes straight to Hell, does not pass go, and should not collect another $20 million paycheck for what is essentially the same fire and brimstone magic show we’ve seen before.

Reeves plays John Constantine, another graphic novel character who smokes too much, looks like somebody ran over his puppy, and waits in the shadows for something bad to happen. Where was this guy four years ago when Florida needed him? Probably choking down another pack of cigarettes, turning his lungs as black as his disposition. You see, John Constantine doesn’t care about his health. He’s dead. More precisely, he’s a fallen angel, a suicide now hoping to make it to the game.

That involves tracking down and sending back demons who don’t play by the rules. Based in Los Angeles (wouldn’t Washington D.C. offer more opportunity), Constantine has his work cut out for him. So does detective Angela Dobson (Rachel Weisz), convinced her twin sister’s suicide was anything but, and who turns to Constantine after witnessing some of his otherworldly talents.

In a not-so-subtle argument against illegal immigration, a Mexican scavenger who accidentally stumbles across the Spear of Destiny used to kill Christ, makes his way to Los Angeles to help end mankind. When Operation Gatekeeper fails, it’s up to Constantine, Hell’s Gatekeeper, to make sure that the messenger doesn’t reach his destination and start collecting Devil’s Food Stamps. Constantine hopes that by racking up enough points he can gain entry into Heaven, but as Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) informs him, it’s all about sacrifice, not personal gain.

Bad news for Constantine, who would rather spend eternity in a blue rather than red state. That means coming up with a plan. Yeah, it pays to have a plan, especially when trying to impress someone who supposedly drafted the ultimate plan. Since Constantine is based on a graphic novel, that means acquiring a sidekick/driver (Shia LeBeouf), an arsenal of appropriate weapons, the confidence of a priest (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and a former demon hunter-turned nightclub owner (Djimon Hounsou).

A formidable ragtag group of types, brought together to save the world from overwhelming evil, led by Reeves still suffer Matrix DT’s. I’m not saying that Reeves doesn’t have range. He can play both brooding and solemn, and when the mood hits him, solemn and brooding. This Man With No Name (and talent) approach worked to his advantage in The Matrix series, where he basically played a machine. In Constantine he’s fighting for his soul, and the audience is the loser.

Weisz is so adept at playing the gutsy damsel in distress Angela feels more like an extension of her previous work than an original creation. Writer Kevin Brodbin and director Francis Lawrence attempt to recreate the novel’s pulpy veneer, and even though the characters look and talk tough, they don’t say much. It’s all regurgitated religious psychobabble about end of days, conveniently tucked into the crevices of the dark house production design which turns Los Angeles into another demonic playground.

The battle between good and bad isn’t be waged over Heaven and Hell, it’s being waged at your local theater, where if you pay good money to see Constantine, you’ll probably feel bad about throwing it away.

Brimstone and Trickle

Reeves is a Dead Rebel With a Cause


Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, Peter Stormare. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Rated R. 117 Minutes.


Go to Hell, After Dark,

It’s a Sin-Filled City,

An Amusement Park,

It’s A One-Way Ticket

To The Other Side,

It’s a Doctor Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde

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