John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with the ability to perceive both the diabolic and beatific creatures that walk among us and the attendant inability to keep his mouth shut. He was thought mad and sent to an asylum, where, in despair, he attempted suicide. Clinically dead for two minutes, he was afforded a glimpse of the hell awaiting mortal sinners and promptly straightened up and flew right. That was 15 years ago. Now the Los Angeles-based Constantine polices the borders between heaven and hell, deporting wayward demons from the earthly plane in the fragile hope that he might buy his way back into God's good graces.
Adapted from Alan Moore's groundbreaking DC/Vertigo comic, Constantine is sure to divide the series' most rabid fans ' most noticeably, the character is no longer a blond-haired, post-punk Brit modeled on Sting ' but those who can set aside their preconceptions will discover one of the most artfully designed comic-based films in some time. Moore, famously, had his name pulled from the finished product in protest over what he viewed as unpardonable sins against his storyline, but for all its divergences from Moore's sacrosanct text, Constantine is remarkably faithful to the book's grim tone.
Constantine may hobnob with the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton, in a breathtakingly outrÃ performance), but he's also a cynical and hard-drinking nicotine fiend who's just learned he has terminal lung cancer. With precious little time left to him, on this plane at least, he can hear Lucifer's tread behind him and is getting anxious about that one-way ticket. He hooks up with a similarly gifted LAPD detective (Rachel Weisz), whose recently deceased sister may hold the key to an impending Luciferian blitzkrieg.
Constantine will likely hold far more interest for devoted fans of the series, but it's not necessary to have read the books to appreciate the film's sumptuous art direction, which includes a genuinely awe-inspiring vision of a hell in the perpetual grip of a nuclear blast. And Reeves captures the sheer, soulless exhaustion of a man who has nothing left to lose and everything to gain.