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February 19, 2005


I am almost convinced that Keanu Reaves has no acting talent. He's almost all surface, all motion and pose. He's been living too long in the Matrix. But that is not enough to destroy the intriguing film that is Constantine.

Constantine, the video effects film noir is a mixed bag, but it is a huge bag. Visually, this film takes you to places that have not been accomplished since 'The Cell'. As a film noir, the script almost works, except that Reaves walks too upright, he is too possessed of inner strength to fill this character out properly, a man deathly afraid of dying yet trying desparately to save his soul. Reaves is still a bit too heroic to make stoicism work. And so the emotional resonance we should have with him fails a few times.

Instead of the kind of depth that we could have expected from the grit of this film Reaves passes through it zombie-like. He gets beat to a pulp but seems not to tremble. That's some classic bad direction of human resources. I kept thinking to myself, this was the perfect movie for Mickey Rourke or Benicio del Toro, a man whose sweat would cling to the cross around his neck. A man whom we could believe had a great deal of love be squeezed out of him, a man with an awesome, trembling fear of God who walks with scorn and pity among the agnostic. A man who marvels at all the wonders and signs given, and cries for humanity in between long draws on the cancer sticks. That's the man at the center of a movie that could have been great.

Instead we have the possibility of a new genre, the religious noir thriller. It's got magic, dive bars, sketches of Santeria, angels and demons, and Lucifer himself. Madre de Dios! That bastard was beautifully evil - Peter Stomare has a scene that rivals Michael Madsen's torture dance in Reservior Dogs, better than Pacino in 'The Devil's Advocate' and damned near as good as Christopher Walken's trailer scene in 'True Romance'.

The film starts off with a bang mixing elements of horror and a detective thriller. Exposition isn't quite what it should be - again, all Reaves' fault, but good enough to leave an adequate amount of intriguing confusion. You never know what might happen, and when extraordinary things do happen, they are visually rewarding if not quite viscerally.

The excellent news is that CG is advanced enough so that we can expect more angels and demons in the future. We've come a good ways since Van Helsing. This is the genre to watch. So what's next?

Posted by mbowen at February 19, 2005 12:05 PM

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Well, for someone with no talent, he sure is rich and good looking. :)

Posted by: Scott Ferguson at February 19, 2005 01:46 PM

Here's our genre name!

[...] "Constantine" is the latest example of the New Corporate Medievalism, that strain of millennial entertainment that takes the mopey nihilism of goth culture, fuses it with our current interest in angels and demons and other diversions from the business at hand, and serves it up with as many computer generated beasties as can fit on a screen. [...]*

Posted by: Anonymous at February 19, 2005 05:28 PM

Good looking?

He looks to me like a walking ad for botox, and he's way too young to need it.

Posted by: Laura at February 20, 2005 07:49 PM

"And so the emotional resonance we should have with him fails a few times."

You can only expect emotional resonance from Keanu in one film: Parenthood.

Other than that, he's like the Bono of the movie realm: he wears cool sunglasses and turns in the same product repeatedly.

Posted by: aldahlia at February 21, 2005 02:19 PM