Saturday, February 19, 2005

Reel To Reel:

How It Rates: **1/2
Starring: Kenau Reeves
Rated: R
Red Flags: Violence, Demonic Images, Language

Preconceived Notions: Reeves leaps from one Matrix to another.
The Bottom Line: Heaven, Hell, and moral ambiguity. Whatever happened to plain right and wrong?

Why is it Catholics are always the targets for demonic possession? Didn't Satan fancy a Southern Baptist or two, or maybe a few Lutherans? Come to think of it, I never heard of a possessed Jew. Oy vey. You would think protestants, those people less aligned to the original branch of the church, would be more malleable for the forces of evil. I guess not.

Constantine is based on a series of comic books -- ahem, graphic novels -- for adults. Reeves plays John Constantine, a chain-smoking exorcist who can't get into Heaven, has already been to Hell, and is dying of lung cancer. So he bides his time as a demon-buster, ridding people of evil spirits. Earth, we are told, is a sort of demilitarized zone between Heaven and Hell. Angels are supposed to stay in their place, and demons in theirs. However, that doesn't rule out influence by one force or another -- a way to game the system using people as pawns. As Constantine points out, "They call it the balance." But some guys just don't play by the rules.

So the world may be coming to an end because somebody has stolen a religious relic which has the power to allow the son of Satan into this world. However, we learn, that person needs the help of (drum roll) God. Uh, right. He also needs a Catholic. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

So people are used as tools by higher powers. So we are all living in netherworld between good and evil, although most of us don't know it. Sounds like (drum roll) The Matrix. Yeah, that's right. There's even a neutral third party reminiscent of Morpheus.

Constantine lives in its own artificial world, all right, one lifted from the comic books where people speak in sentences short enough to fit in frames. Its setting is Los Angeles, the "City Of Angels," just one of several visual symbols we see through the film. Like The Matrix, Reeves commands the CGI around him without a stretch. He doesn't dodge bullets but he does run through walls.

What bothered me about Constantine was how it could reduce the fight between good and evil down to a few people with nary any collateral damage. I know, I know -- not everybody can see demons. But if humans are pawns, we should at least be able to tell when we're being played or who's on what side. Looks like The Matrix has us.

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