ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  francis lawrence

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  fantasy

LENGTH  -  121 minutes

RELEASED  -  18 february 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  constantine

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $90,000,000
constantine - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from constantine at

buy the dvd from constantine at

tells the story of irreverent supernatural detective john constantine, who has literally been to hell and back.

a character named ellie, who was a demon constantine dealt with early on, was completely cut from the film. director francis lawrence stated that she was left on the cutting room floor because he wanted constantine to be completely alone when he meets angela. he also stated that an unrated DVD would contain ellie's scenes.


picture from constantine

picture from constantine

picture from constantine

picture from constantine

picture from constantine

picture from constantine


three out of four possible stars

Broaching the broad creative territory of the mainstream moviegoer is a difficult task for some filmmakers whose projects would otherwise confine them to ensuring viewership from only those audience members previously interested in their subject matter. Such as characters based on obscure comic book heroes, for example. Coming from the Marvel factory of printed matter, Constantine is hardly the type of well-known figure that would easily bring in the masses like a story such as Super-Man or Spider-Man might bring. And in some of its more creative elements, some casual viewers might miss the various "in" jokes that always seem to populate movies based on comic books.

It's like the filmmakers believe that their fans would expect a healthy number of references and sly quips that only true, devoted, insomniac ridden fans would understand. But with the involvement in the movie of Keanu Reeves, who frequently masquerades as the undisputed King of Sly Quips in his feature film outings, it probably won't matter what deeper meaning may or may not be lurking under the surface of the dialogue. In the title role of a brooding, stiffly dressed exorcist living in Los Angeles, Reeves fits into the shoes of the character so well that if the film's basis hadn't already been put into print in book form, it would have seemed the role was created specifically for him.

But on that note, the filmmakers have transported the nationality and location of "John Constantine" from the dirty streets of Liverpool, England to the presumably equally as dirty streets of Los Angeles. The location change might cause "purists" who have every copy of the comic book sitting on their shelves to take issue with the screenwriters, but disregarding the film's various and not entirely unexpected differences between the film and the material upon which it was based, the screenwriters handle the particulars of the genre well (such as the requisite balance of humor and danger, for example).

Although the dialogue itself won't knock the viewers for a loop, the performances are strong across the board, with the supporting role of the archangel "Gabriel" being terrifically portrayed by actress Tilda Swinton. Although her role is a minor one, her casting is perfect. And in a small role that still manages to leave a strong impression on viewers, Peter Stormare's single scene as the devil is a performance that his fans will relish. In a more major role, star Rachel Weisz, playing a police detective who crosses paths with Constantine, gives the role both the subtlety and energy it needs. She also performs well with Reeves and has a believable and natural chemistry with him.

The performers in science fiction and fantasy themed films often need to tread that line between knowing that the things their characters are involved in are slightly hilarious and unbelievably incredible. It's not every day you get to walk the fire ridden paths of Hell and return to crack a joke about it. Through the increasing artistry associated with computer generated images and their natural and believable insertion into the "real" world, Constantine benefits from a talented crew on both the computer generated and physically created sides of set decoration and design.

People who have seen Los Angeles only through the eyes of a camera will find this film's physical locations an interesting departure from the usual presentation of Los Angeles as a city of sunny skies, palm trees, and movie stars. Using locations that would more readily bring to mind one of the more dirty boroughs of New York City, inclement weather, pseudo Art-Deco interiors, and a general dank aura floods every frame of the film. The film's dismal portrayal of Los Angeles is comparable to Training Day, a similarly dark film that attempted to convince its viewers that torrents of rain are a daily occurrence in sunny southern California.

It's a welcome change that the film does not take place in New York City (the city where all comic book heroes seemingly must reside), but the filmmakers seem to have done their level best to make sure that Los Angeles quite resembles a cement lined street in Manhattan. But beyond the interesting take on city life in Los Angeles, the special effects in the film regarding the creation of Hell and the various mythical elements on the Earth "dimension" might just give viewers an effects experience worthy of a visit to a theater with a very big screen. Veteran cinematographer Philippe Rousselot also gives the film a good shove into the unique using a plethora of interesting angles and vantage points to showcase the film's characters.

By allowing the characters and plot to dance around the well-known tenets of Christianity, the film might seem a sacrilegious creation concerning the religion, but in the creation of the characters themselves, the filmmakers are asking the audience to assume that Christianity and the Bible are filled with truth and that heaven and hell are actual places. For this reason, the film might not find a hearty audience in countries where Christianity is not the dominant religion. Put simply, viewers of this film must allow for the reality of the Christian religion to exist as fact. It's possible that most viewers would not consider that the film asks such a thing of its audience, so it might be more constructive to consider this film an exciting adventure rather than a film of "deep" proportions.

In its genre, Constantine is a well-made film on all fronts. It's probably a toss-up whether the casual viewer would find great enjoyment out of this specific type of film, though on a strictly professional level, the film more than delivers. A swiftly moving, beautifully photographed story, the film is a great example of a movie that best plays in a theatrical setting. Seeing the intricate special effects on a television screen probably won't pack the same sort of punch. Seeing Keanu Reeves save the world is definitely worth the trip to the theater.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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