Constantine Or Bill And Ted’s Existential Adventure

keanu reeves constantine

Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.

Created by the revered comic book writer Alan Moore and visually modelled on Sting, who better to play the part of the Liverpudlian chain-smoking, nihilistic blonde demon-fighting occult detective John Constantine than…er…Keanu Reeves? Did I mention he was Liverpudlian? Strangely enough, Hollywood execs weren’t too keen on their leading man having a Scouse accent, and so the action is transplanted from the shiny streets and glittering facades of Merseyside to the dark and dank recesses of Los Angeles.

For those of you unfamiliar with the John Constantine cult, he’s a bit like Derek Acorah except that he actually does see ghosts, demons and things that go bump in the night. Constantine carves out a living as a paranormal investigator, performing exorcisms and policing the City of Angels for any wayward ‘half-breeds’, angels and demons living covertly amongst humans as part of an existential wager between God and the Devil. Oh, and he’s also got terminal lung cancer and knows when he dies he will end up in Hell due to an earlier suicide attempt when he technically ‘died’ for a couple of minutes.

If you thought that all of this would make Constantine an embittered, misanthropic, cynical, anti-social individual…then you’d be right. Reeves broods his way through the majority of the film with his trademark insouciance stopping only to light up a never-ending stream of cigarettes along the way. The plot of the film deals with the machinations of the Anti-Christ, Mammon, who is plotting to be reborn on Earth and turn it into a Hell-themed amusement park for all his demon buddies.

Thrown into this apocalyptic struggle between Good and Evil is Rachel Weisz who plays Angela Dodson, a police detective investigating the apparent suicide of her twin sister, Isabel. It transpires that Isabel also shared Constantine’s ability to perceive supernatural phenomena which, of course, led to her being held in a mental asylum. Both Dodson sisters are powerful psychics which qualifies them, Omen-style, to be the delivery vessel for Mammon’s earthly body which would no doubt generate media coverage similar to the latest Kardashian child’s delivery. Oh, and the Spear of Destiny is also involved in some tenuous way to aid the migration of the damned onto the green and pleasant pastures of Earth.

Despite his deep-rooted cynicism, Constantine reluctantly embarks on the anti-hero’s journey to try to prevent the encroachment of Hell on Earth by systematically exterminating any demons he believes to be in on the plot and utilising a variety of arcane and fantasy-inspired weaponry such as Dragon Fire and ampoules of holy water. Mr Gwen Stefani, also known as Gavin Rossdale, is one such sharp-suited Patrick Bateman inspired demon who is quite literally blown away by the shotgun-toting Constantine.

The climax of the film sees John unearthing a divine conspirator to Mammon’s plot, the ever androgynous Tilda Swinton as the cryptic and disturbed angel Gabriel. The always excellent Peter Stormare also throws in a delightfully creepy cameo as Lucifer who turns up to personally collect Constantine’s soul which is usually a good indicator that you’ve not exactly led a God-fearing and Christian life. Lucifer is frustrated once more as Constantine sacrifices himself to save Isabel’s soul which grants him access to Heaven due to his altruistic act. Lucifer, like any good lawyer, finds a loophole to prevent Constantine’s ascension and cures him of his cancer thus ensuring further time spent earthbound for our recalcitrant saviour.

Imaginative casting aside, this film adaptation of Vertigo’s cult character was an opportunity to do what no other adaptation had done before, namely create a faithful yet engaging translation of Moore’s work. Constantine doesn’t quite manage that feat, but still achieves respectability by being better than League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, (not hard), and not quite as good as Watchmen. There have been rumours of a sequel involving the rise and rise of a dark and malignant, blonde haired, blue-eyed megalomaniac casting a shadow across the land with his insatiable lust for power and dominion. Surely even Constantine will struggle to foil the irresistible ascent of Boris Johnson, but it will be a fight worth seeing.

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