Running Time: 121 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Region: 1
MSRP: $28.98

Own It!
Constantine (2005)

I am quite aware that I am an anomaly. Simply looking over my movie collection would verify that; the sort of flick I actively seek out and enjoy speaks reams.

Then there is the fact that - given the critiques readily available on the Web and in print media - I am apparently the only person in the universe who does not despise Keanu Reeves. Go figure.

Constantine, is, of course, based on the DC Vertigo comic book Hellblazer, itself about an abrasive young magician named John Constantine. Created by comics legend Alan Moore, Constantine was undeniably British, blonde and brazen (modeled, in fact, on rock star Sting), which is just about everything Reeves is not. So when a Hellblazer movie finally got underway, two decisions were made insuring that any fans of the comic would be alienated: 1) Constantine suddenly became American, because everyone knows that Americans cannot possibly relate to a foreign main character; and 2) he suddenly became Keanu Reeves.

I dredge all this up to make a point: Constantine is actually a very good movie, and the only thing preventing its success is Keanu backlash. The film's story contains several elements from the early run of the comic book, as Constantine investigates the suicide of a police detective's twin sister (Rachel Weisz in both cases), only to discover a much deeper plot involving the incarnation of the devil's son into this mundane world, causing, as usual, Hell on Earth. Besides dealing with an incipient apocalypse, the chain-smoking exorcist also has a more personal problem - he's just discovered he has terminal lung cancer.

Most of the criticisms levelled at Constantine seem to hinge on the "it's just The Matrix with demons" argument, but one has to work really hard to make that comparison fly. If anything, this movie's heaven-vs-hell cosmology leans a little too heavily on Catholicism, but then our major characters are all Catholic, and the movie's mysticism is consistent, at least. Reeves himself does not make or break the movie, but you can be sure that it was his attached name that finally got the green light - and anybody who is avoiding Constantine on the basis of its star is missing a very good action/horror movie.

The usual high-quality Warner Home Video transfer, in terms of picture and sound quality. I'm still amazed that I'm holding a Warner disc in a clamshell box, though.

You're going to start your disc experience with a slew of previews, for Alexander, Blade: Trinity, the latest Seinfeld season box set, and A Scanner Darkly.

Past that, there are 12 deleted (or trimmed-down) scenes and an alternate ending, with optional commentary by director Francis Lawrence, and a theatrical trailer, which is refreshing in that it relies solely on dialogue and imagery from the movie, and Movie Voice Guy is nowhere to be found. In other words, there is no "In a land without law... in a world beyond imagination...."

There are also DVD-ROM hot links to the Warner Home Video site, the official movie site, a Constantine skin for your Windows Media Player, and an exclusive Web interview with the director, producer, screenwriter, etc., that could have just as easily fit on the disc. That's fairly light on the extras front, but there is a two disc Deluxe Edition, featuring a director/producer commentary, photo galleries, and a reprint comic book, for a mere two bucks more.

These different editions are going to be the death of me.

Dr. Freex, 8/10/2005