'Constantine' nothing new

If you're a dark comic book fan or like movies about unexplained heroes fighting mysterious forces, then "Constantine" might appeal to you. If you'd rather go to the dentist twice in one day then watch this kind of movie, stay away from "Constantine."

"Constantine" is adapted from the comic book "Vertigo Hellblazer," and the plot isn't too complex. Basically, demons are out to take over the world and the souls who inhabit it. They lurk in every dark corner imaginable. John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) expects to stop them. Somehow he was chosen as the only human who can see these "half-breeds," angels and demons in human form. His job is to exorcise the people from the demons.

At one point in the past - that we don't see in the movie - Constantine decided this was too great a task for him, so he committed suicide and went to Hell. Now he's back, still relegated to do the cleanup. So, he does, not to save the world, but to save his own skin.

When there seem to be more demons than Constantine can handle, he figures he needs a conduit. Enter police detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz). There's a complicated explanation that, to take over Dodson's soul, he must use the fabled Spirit Spear, the one used to stab Jesus on the cross during his crucifixion.

It's confusing, the complication of the tale is only magnified by the execution of the plot. The concepts about death, Heaven, Catholic sin, suicide and eternal damnation are far too extensive for most theater audiences to understand. Tales about fear-inspiring forces could be captivating, but when those forces come and go and come back again with little explanation, catching on is like trying to follow a cab driver in Tijuana.

Captivating characters would also help. Unfortunately Reeves has fallen into the cardboard cutout zone of weird characters. His Constantine is Neo from "The Matrix." He puts little emotion into his role. We never know if he's happy, sad, scared, challenged.

Some of the characters in the film are far more interesting. Weisz finds a connection to her character by demonstrating Angela's pride. Tilda Swinton is intriguing and creepy as the androgynous archangel Gabriel, but she's too talented for this film. Djimon Honsou as a witch doctor certainly brings a few laughs, and Peter Stormare is probably the best thing in the movie as the Devil.

"Constantine" is playing at the La Jolla AMC 12 Theater.

   
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