2005-03-25 / Columnists

MovieScope

By Robert Snyder


Riding the success of his “Matrix” series, actor Keanu Reeves may be searching for a new franchise with his current feature, “Constantine.” Not to throw cold water on such hopes, but judging the complete lack of an audience at the show I saw last week, a lucrative series seems unlikely.

The reason for the lukewarm reception to the film, based on D.C. Comics/ Vertigo “Hellblazer” graphic novels, may lie in the absence of suspense or excitement amidst the now-familiar monster-“Mummy” special effects. Also, the mumbo-jumbo level of dialogue spewing from Reeves’ mouth soars higher than Linda Blair’s “Exorcist” pea soup. Delivered in a sleep-inducing monotone, the pseudo-religious rhetoric concerns the role of Constantine (Reeves) in sending “half-breed” demons back to Hell once he catches them crossing the line into earthly realms. Constantine and sidekick, Police Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz from the far scarier “The Shape of Things”), take a few trips to Hell themselves, by way of bath water (who’d have thought?). There, they find a lot of Gollum-like creatures crawling on a Martian landscape.

The whole mess ends with visits from angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton), who’s not so holy, but has great wings, and Satan himself (Peter Stormare from the far scarier “Fargo”). Constantine is batting demons back to Hell to gain brownie points for a ticket to Heaven. He’s going to be in one of those places soon because his chain-smoking has given him terminal cancer. However, despite a suicide-attempt, Constantine is apparently not ready to kick the bucket, leaving open the possibility of sequels, as in franchise. Now, if only “Constantine” could get an audience.

The most frightening movie ever made is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Its horror didn’t rely on expensive special effects. The same could be said of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

What’s needed to create goose-bumps is a bone-chilling story with psychological underpinnings, properly told. With or without the effects, “Constantine” is full of hot air, best to be blown back to Hollywood Hell.

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