Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Movie Review: "Constantine".

What happens when "The Matrix" meets "The Exorcist"? Keanu Reeves might appear.

That's not too bad, if you're a fan of either or both of these successful movies.

Opening this weekend, "Constantine" (2005) brings together the sci-fi action and messianic/religious imagery displayed in "The Matrix" (especially part III, "Revolutions") with the dramatic (if not horrifying) punch of exorcism explored in, you guessed it, "The Exorcist".

1. Synopsis.

"Constantine" is the last name of Reeves' character, John. (Constantine is also the name of an emperor who incorporated Christianity into the Roman Empire by fiat--coincidence?). John Constantine has the ability to see angels and demons roaming the earth, trying to "influence" humans for their respective camps. Constantine battles demons in an effort to buy or work his way out of his own banishment to hell for his attempted suicide.

Constantine's efforts become more altruistic when he encounters a Los Angeles police detective Angela (another coincidental character name?), played by Rachel Weisz. When her twin sister dies, Constantine gets involved. In so doing, they uncover an otherworldly battle, that leads to a quite unique climax involving Lucifer, and Gabriel (an Angel).

2. Reactions.

With respect to its permeating religiosity, I think most Christians will find it generally positive. In fact, there are intelligent distinctions drawn between saving belief and mere knowledge. In addition, the movie discusses whether salvation may be earned. As a constant theme, "Constantine" commits to a plane of existence that is not merely material.

Evaluating its movie-making aspects, the film moves briskly (for the most part) and keeps one's attention. There is a character or two that could have been excised from the film (along with their scenes), such as "Midnight", a denizen of a cliche underground club, and a bizarre priest. Nevertheless, the acting is mostly creditable, the action interesting and creative, and the direction nicely done. In all, Constantine is highly entertaining.

Finally, I have to comment on the movie's overt anti-smoking message. In addition to showing X-rays of Constantine's cancerous lungs, the script even includes these memorable lines from Satan to Constantine: "Go ahead and smoke, I own stock". This exchange gives one a sense of the unusual (if not whimsical) portrayal of the Devil here, showing up in a white leisure suit with bloody bare feet, and dispensing some odd observations.

"Constantine" receives an "A-".