"Keanu Reeves plays a man in a black trench coat chosen by fate to uncover the shocking truth that Earth is not as we believe it to be, but merely a mundane illusion hiding an army of insidious and overwhelming enemies. So, basically, it's The Matrixwith crosses."
Constantine is a 2005 American film very loosely based on Vertigo Comics' Hellblazer comic book, with some plot elements being taken from the "Dangerous Habits" story arc (issues #41-46) and others - such as the inclusion of Papa Midnite - from the "Original Sins" trade paperback. It was released on February 8, 2005 in Hong Kong, and on February 18, 2005 in the U.S. and Canada. It is rated R for violence and demonic images by the MPAA. It also contains mild language.Things are getting stranger for John Constantine (played by Keanu Reeves), American, atoner and Catholic demon-hunter. Demon activity is on the rise as more and more denizens of Hell are trying to cross over to earth. This would be right up Constantine's alley, but he's a little preoccupied with the fact that he's dying of lung cancer, and going to go to Hell despite all he's done.Things come to a head when LAPD officer Angela Dodson approaches Constantine with news that her institutionalized, possibly psychic sister has recently offed herself. Constantine investigates and starts to uncover a connection to the demons and a possible plot to turn Earth into a literal Hell.The film is notorious among readers for being an In Name Only adaptation — in particular, changing the blond, British protagonist into a black-haired American who is more of an exorcist than a magician — but it has merits aplenty if viewed as a standalone work.
Adaptation Expansion: The novelization of the film written by John Shirley does an amazing job of expanding upon the movieverse. It develops the characters more thoroughly and explains the mythology of Constantine's job comprehensively. In addition, it includes all the deleted scenes shown on the DVD in context and fits them into continuity. For those who may be on the fence about the film, the novelization might be the tipping point into enjoying it.
Angel Unaware: The so-called "Half Breeds" that work for either side. Constantine states that they aren't allowed to have a direct hand in things, but they have the ability to influence humans to act on their behalf, either filling someone with Heroic Resolve or driving them over the Despair Event Horizon. The Stinger implies that Chas was one all along.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: When attacked by the Scavengers of the Damned, Angela pulls out her pistol and points it behind her, ending at Constantine's crotch. It may not just have been Guns Are Worthless that made him say "That's really not going to help".
Blessed with Suck: Constantine, Father Hennessy, Isabel, and Angela each have supernatural gifts which make them not quite normal in the eyes of everyday people. Seeing a nice old lady get a Nightmare Face or sensing the emotions of an event from touching the newspaper can lead to this result. John even warns Angela that once her power is activated, she won't just see them, they will know she is seeing their true face.
Condensation Clue: Constantine is sure that Isabel Dodson didn't commit suicide without leaving a message for her sister Angela. He uses a repeated Armor-Piercing Question on a reluctant Angela to force her to admit that she and Isabel used this technique as children. Angela then breathes on the window in Isabel's room, revealing her final message to her sister.
Curb-Stomp Battle: When the Big Bad is revealed to be Gabriel, Constantine is effortlessly beaten. When Satan turns up to save the day(!) Gabriel tries to "smite [Satan] in His honour!", only to fail because "Somebody doesn't have [Gabriel's] back any more", and then gets his wings burned off and gets blasted across the room.
Death by Irony: Beeman, a guy who collected insects, was killed by them coming out of his body and Hennessy, who drank to dull his psychic powers, died from drinking himself to death in less than a minute.
Didn't See That Coming: Lucifer did not expect to see John by him cutting his wrists again. He quickly realizes something is off with the situation.
Driven to Suicide: Constantine attempted to kill himself because he saw demonically-possessed people. He managed to succeed just enough for it to count as a suicide by the rules of Heaven, but ultimately survived. He's spent the rest of his life trying to buy his way out of Hell and succeeds by killing himself again but this time as a Heroic Sacrifice. Too bad Satan is a sore loser and saves him from dying.
Does Not Like Shoes: Lucifer, who is otherwise well-coiffed. Word of God states that the reason Stormare's feet are dripping with goo is that he must pollute the ground to walk on it.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Balthazar's face after John soaked half of it in holy water. Now what other DC comic has had half his face disfigured by a vial of liquid?
The man possessed by the Spear of Destiny rises behind Angela while she's in the pool.
After Angela is possessed, she rises behind Constantine.
Evil Is Petty: Satan enjoys dicking around with Constantine when he shows up.
Exploited Immunity: Constantine flushes out some demons that have infested a hospital by having his apprentice perform a holy water ritual on the hospital's fire safety system, then holding a cigarette lighter below a smoke detector, triggering the sprinklers to rain holy water. The holy water burns the demons while leaving the humans inside unharmed.
Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Used as a plot point. Water is said to be a "universal conduit" that can facilitate travel between Hell and its surrounding realms. In order to reach Hell, which is a red-hued realm of fire and brimstone, a person has to suspend part of their body in water while on Earth.
Flatline Plotline: Used to give Angela a taste of Constantine's knowledge; he drowns her in a bathtub under carefully controlled conditions.
Flies Equals Evil: Beeman has a fly crawl out from under his eyelid as a sign of demonic attack upon him. He's later found dead with flies covering him and crawling out of his mouth. This may have been Balthazaar's version of irony.
Foreshadowing: Papa Midnite tells Constantine that his soul is the only one Satan himself would come to collect. He's right.
Flipping the Bird: Twice by Constantine. One being at the beginning after exorcise a demon out of a girl and another to Satan after he finally earns his way out of hell.
Genre Savvy: Lucifer is quick to realize John didn't commit suicide again for no simple reason and listened, if mockingly, to John's words about his son trying to break through. He also realized why John wasn't being drawn with him back into Hell as he did sacrifice himself for the sake of another.
The Gods Must Be Lazy: God and Satan have made a deal not to directly interfere in the mortal world. The half-demons constantly break this rule, but they don't get punished - just sent back to hell by Constantine.
Go Into the Light: Subverted. Satan pulls Constantine out of the light and cures his lung cancer so he'll have a chance to royally screw up again.
Guns Are Worthless: Angela's normal pistol is the straight example. Constantine subverts it by assembling his own gun out of a variety of holy items, allowing him to quickly blast his way through a room full of half-demons.
Heaven Seeker: The title character goes around sending half-demons back to Hell in the hope that this will gain him entry into Heaven after he dies. It's not that John Constantine likes the idea of Heaven that much — he just wants to avoid going to Hell, since he knows firsthand (due to trying to commit suicide in his youth) how horrible it is.
"You're a cop. Imagine being sentenced to a prison where half the inmates were put there by you."
To Hell and Back: Constantine is such an expert at doing this, he even teaches Angela to do it once.
Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted. John dies by suicide, drawing Satan to Earth, gets him to save the world, and only wants Isabel's soul freed from hell. By this act of self-sacrifce, his previous suicide is wiped away and John, still dead, is on his way to Heaven. That is until Satan heals John of his cut wrists and cancer.
Hijacked by Jesus: The movie removes all elements of non-Christian mythology from the setting.
Hollywood Apocrypha: The Hell Bible, which has a different Book of Revelation. And an extra five chapters in 1 Corinthians.
Holy Burns Evil: Holy water scalds the hell out of half-demons, destroying their human shell, and making them easier to kill.
I Have Many Names: The devil in this film is called both "Lucifer" and "Satan". John calls him "Lou" just to mess with him. Gabriel has a few more choice names for him, when they meet.
Gabriel: Son of Perdition. Little Horn. [Satan giggles] Most Unclean. Satan: I do miss the old names.
Immune to Drugs: Semi-Averted. Constantine has developed lung cancer from smoking, but Satan cures him.
If you imagine that it's not based on Hellblazer, it's actually pretty good. (Technically, we know from Etrigan's rhymes that the Hellblazer hero's name is pronounced Constan-TYNE, so this movie in which Keanu's name is Constan-TEEN qualifies as a distinct individual.)
One gets the impression that this could have been sold as a very good American story of an occult detective by itself.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Satan saves the world. And sets a damned (but innocent) soul free. And cures Constantine's lung cancer. Satan. He has his reasons.
No Sell: Lucifer being, well, Lucifer, he pulls this off twice after he shows up to claim John's soul. John's being 'between worlds' has temporarily brought time almost to a standstill; Gabriel, in the other room, is moving in super-slow motion, but Lucifer meanders in at his normal pace and pulls Angela/Mammon out of the way, at which point time instantly returns back to normal. And in the reflected water that shows Mammon, he's struggling with all his might to escape his father's grasp. Lucifer doesn't so much as move a muscle.
One Last Smoke: Played with. It's hard to flick your lighter if you've cut all the tendons in your wrists.
Our Angels Are Different: Gabriel is the winged (androgynous) humanoid variety, but likely not a pure angel, since angels and demons are not allowed on Earth. Constantine himself says to Gabriel earlier in the movie- "[...] You're the one that deserves to go to Hell, half-breed," confirming this.
Pedestrian Crushes Car: At the beginning, when the Mexican man finds the Spear of Destiny, he walks onto a road and a car runs into him. The car is totaled, the man is unscathed.
Poke in the Third Eye: When Constantine is using The Chair to spy on the man possessed by the Spear of Destiny.
Portal Pool: Constantine states that any body of water, no matter how small, can be used as a portal to hell.
Protective Charm: John's priest friend has one but he foolishly didn't keep it on when getting deep in an investigation. Later, when it is given to Angela, she inadvertently removed it.
Psychic Children: The title character and Isabel and Angela Dodson all first displayed their psychic abilities as children. Unfortunately, these abilities helped them to see the half-demons infesting the Earth, resulting in two of them being forced to undergo psychiatric treatment and later committing suicide.
Refusing Paradise: Forced, and thereby possible subverted. The dying main character is about to enter heaven, when the devil deliberately heals him to make sure he has another chance at messing up his salvation on earth.
Retired Badass: Papa Midnite, a magi so powerful that he took on 30 demons by himself. Doesn't need special tools as he has actual magical powers. And powerful enough to create his own embassy of neutrality where hybrids mix and behave under his watch.
Rerouted From Heaven: Inverted and then played straight. As John was a suicide since his youth, he was bound for Hell. But when he sacrificed his life and soul not just to stop the Big Bad, but save the soul of one in hell, he is rerouted from Hell to Heaven. Not having this, John is resurrected and cured of his injuries by Satan, in the hopes that he'll screw up and get himself damned again.
Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: The plot is loosely based on the Hellblazer story "Dangerous Habits". John's lung cancer, his argument with Gabriel (who exhibits more sympathy for him here), and Satan ripping the tumors from John's body are all taken from the comic. Other similarities include Gabriel panicking when found out by God (John mentions that "He" isn't happy about his angel schmoozing with the IRA), John cutting his wrists, Satan's trail of slime, and John flipping him off at the end.
Slow Electricity: When Constantine and Angela Dodson are talking on the street, the streetlights begin to turn off (with clunking sounds) - first far away, then approaching them.
Smoking Is Cool: Subverted, as John gets lung cancer and later, as he quits at the end of the movie (after Satan gets rid of the cancer).
The Stinger: Chas dies but is resurrected as an angel. Constantine's not exactly thrilled at this development.
Gabriel: So...I'll bring you pain. I'll bring you horror. So that you may rise above it. So that those of you who survive this reign of hell on Earth will be worthy of God's love. John: Gabriel. You're insane.
Villainous Rescue: As part of a last ditch effort, John kills himself to summon Satan. When he understands the whys, Satan saves the world because it is his job to destroy it.
A lot of fans of the film (and comic) consider the editing out of Constantine's half-demon sex partner Ellie, based on the succubus Ellie from Hellblazer and played by Michelle Monaghan, to be a loss for the film. The reason given was that it would be harder to believe that Constantine was a bitter loner if he was sleeping with a gorgeous woman, even if she was evil.
Also, the deletion of many scenes from the original script which dealt with Chas' character. Even if you aren't fond of Shia LaBeouf, the original script gave his character something to actually do, whereas in the final film he disappears for a good two-thirds during the middle, which begs the question why his character wasn't also cut.