Prayer Focus
Movie Review

CONSTANTINE

MPAA Rating: R for violence and demonic images

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
STAFF WRITER

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action/Adventure, Suspense, Thriller, Fantasy
Length:
2 hr. 1 min.
Year of Release:
2005
Featuring: Keanu Reaves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf, Djimon Hounsou
Director: Francis Lawrence
Producer: Lauren Shuler Donner, Michael Aguilar, Richard Donner, Akiva Goldsman
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

SATAN AND DEMONS

SATAN—Is he a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

Demons

Devil

Satan

Armageddon

POSSESSION—Can Christians be demon possessed? Answer
In what ways can Satan and his demons influence believers?

HELL

Is there an actual place called “Hell”? Answer

Why was Hell made? Answer

Is there anyone in Hell today? Answer

Will there literally be a burning fire in Hell? Answer

What should you be willing to do to stay out of Hell? Answer

How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer

What if I don’t believe in Hell? Answer

Hell

HOW TO STAY OUT OF HELL

What is “repentance”? Answer

What is “redemption”? Answer

What is “forgiveness”? Answer

What is “salvation”? Answer

Are you good enough to go to Heaven? Answer

THE HOPE!

God’s Story: From Creation to Eternity

Is Jesus Christ the answer?

SUICIDE

What does the Bible say about suicide? Answer

If a born-again Christian commits suicide, will he go to Heaven or Hell? Answer

EVIL

How did bad things come about? Answer

CANCER—Where did it come from? Answer

Fall of man

What was Adam, the first man, really like? Answer

ANGELS

Angels

Gabriel

What does the Bible teach us about angels? Who or what are they? Answer
Are all angels good? What do they look like? Do angels have bodies? Learn the Biblical teachings on these and many other questions about angels.

  • Do people become angels after death? Answer
  • Are all angels good? Answer
  • How did angels originate? Answer
  • How many angels are there? Answer
  • Do angels have bodies? Answer
  • What do angels look like? Answer
  • How do angels compare to human beings? Answer
  • What is the job description for an angel? Answer

HEAVEN

Heaven

Hell wants him. Heaven won’t take him. Earth needs him.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “John Constantine has been to hell and back. Born with a gift he didn’t want, the ability to recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage, Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was driven to take his own life to escape the tormenting clarity of his vision. But he failed. Resuscitated against his will, he found himself cast back into the land of the living. Now, marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life, he patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell, hoping in vain to earn his way to salvation by waging war on the earthbound minions of evil.

But Constantine is no saint. Increasingly disillusioned by the world around him and at odds with the one beyond, he’s a hard-living bitter hero who scorns the very idea of heroism. Constantine will fight to save your soul but he doesn’t want your admiration or your thanks—and certainly not your sympathy. All he wants is a way out.

When a desperate but skeptical police detective (Rachel Weisz as Angela Dodson) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.”

Based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer.

Review

Employed by heaven, but doomed to hell, the hero of the theological thriller Constantine seems more inconstant than constant regarding his final destiny. His purpose on earth of exorcising demons remains fixed until a terminal disease will eventually claim his life and seal his fate. But maybe.just maybe, there is hope for him and humanity.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift to see into the spirit world. Overwhelmed at a young age, he took his own life and saw hell, but was miraculously spared and allowed to live. Now fated to hell because of this sin, he works, begrudgingly, casting out demons and battling evil in the spirit world.

After an indifferent introduction to a police officer named Angela (Rachel Weisz), John decides to help her investigate her twin sister’s supposed suicide and open her eyes to the spiritual battle raging all around them. When a spiritual gift of Angela’s resurfaces, she becomes a pawn for the devil, and John must decide if and how he will save her.

This movie is packed with thrills and scares and does include some frightening images. One scene in the beginning shows a possessed woman having a demon exorcised out of her. Other scenes involve flurries of demons flying around the main characters, as well as some moments where they visit hell. The images are scary, but also give us a fresh visualization of things that really do exist. There are also some other violent images involving someone being hit by a car and more than one character dying. There is some foul language, including using God’s name in vain—some of which seem to be a play on words at times.

The premise for the film is based on some definite biblical ideas, such as heaven and hell, angels and demons, but also exaggerates some biblical ideas and makes them more fantastical. One example is the reference to I Corinthians 17, a chapter that doesn’t really exist, but here they say was “recovered.” The other is the idea that the devil is going to have a son enter the world by a weapon that was supposedly used to kill the Son of God. Still, the story does have some biblical basis, and can challenge one to think about good versus evil, God and the devil, suicide, repentance, and sacrifice. [See relevant issues q&a]

Though this film is heavy with atmosphere involving demons and spiritual evil, it is not devoid of uplifting and encouraging moments as well. At one point, the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) shares the Gospel with John. Gabriel tells John that there is sin, but if you repent, God will forgive you. Gabriel also encourages John in the midst of all the evil and says that it’s only in the face of horror where we find our most noblest self. He goes on to say that horror is brought to us so we can rise above it. By the end, there is also a change in some of the characters when they come to believe that God does have a plan for them.

While interviewing the director, Francis Lawrence, he explained that his goal for this movie is to entertain. His parents were both scientists, and refers to them as “lapsed Catholics.” So this religious understanding, as well as the logic of science that he learned, gave him some guidance in how he directed this story (which is based on a DC Comic). Lawrence believes that this film presents a story about good versus evil, and is ultimately about a sacrifice that brings about redemption. And regarding the similarity of John Constantine’s initials and those of Jesus Christ, he said it is tough for him to talk about, since that is the name of the character in the original comic book.

This film won’t satisfy all of your theological questions, but it can certainly provoke you to perhaps look more closely at significant spiritual issues. They are not always simple to bring up and talk about, but this movie is an entertaining way to get you thinking about them and perhaps start discussing them.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor


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Read our INTERVIEWS with the cast members and writers of this film. - GO
Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Before I watched “Constantine,” I was a satanist. By the end of the movie, I was a repentant Christian giving my life over to Christ. The idea that Constantine knew he was going to hell reflected my own idea that I was going too. But then God spoke to my heart, offering salvation if I asked Christ into my life. I did just that and I haven’t looked back. As far as the theology behind the story goes, it’s close enough to present an important message of God’s intentions.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Michael, age 46 (Canada)
Positive—I thought it was very good. Grant it, many mainstream Christians won’t understand that many of the offensive ideas are actually Biblical. Some, of course, are not. But it is a secular movie about a Christian topic (of a comic book no less) and needs to be judged as such. I’m glad a secular movie included the plan of salvation, and showed how the vile of us can be saved through repentance and self-sacrifice. Not air-tight, but a great conversation starter, huh evangelicals? Do you know how big that is? That is great!

I’m glad a character showed the struggle of so many people who do believe in God, but have never received salvation from Him because of their pride. I’m also glad the hero didn’t have to be a sniveling weakling who griped to God about his life, but he was a more Biblically accurate character of boldness, strength and power. Finally!

I didn’t mind the character of Gabriel, it is biblically accurate of angels and demons. I did not like that they used Gabriel, himself, as the character instead of some unknown angel. I also didn’t like that the idea of repentance was skipped in a conversion. But like I said, it is not a Christian movie and so it would not be fair to judge it as one. Overall, it was great for entertainment (for someone who enjoys movies that make you think and not just ones that blow things up)—and great that this topic is being talked about again. Go see it!
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Katherine Evangelical, age 30
Positive—I enjoyed “Constantine” for what it was, a great action movie. The elements of occult were not used in a way that would offend anyone who would actually go and see the movie, but would most definitely offend the type of people who would not see this type of movie anyway. so if you enjoy violent action movies (even though it is not an overly violent movie, nor does it contain as much foul language as I was expecting), I would recommend this movie to you. I am a big comic book fan, and I think they did HELLBLAZER justice, english accent aside. I enjoyed Reeves’ performance; thumbs up. If you see it, stay till the end of the credits.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Dave, age 19
Positive—I enjoyed “Constantine” for what it was, a great action movie. the elements of occult were not used in a way that would offend anyone who would actually go and see the movie, but would most definitely offend the type of people who would not see this type of movie anyway. so if you enjoy violent action movies (even though it is not an overly violent movie, nor does it contain as much foul language as I was expecting), I would recommend this movie to you. I am a big comic book fan, and I think they did HELLBLAZER justice, English accent aside. I enjoyed Reeves’ performance; thumbs up. if you see it, stay till the end of the credits.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Dave, age 19
Positive—“Constantine” is definitely the best Hollywood film that deals with Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, and angels and demons. I was pleasantly surprised at the Christian themes and evangelical comments made in the film. However, this film is not spiritually perfect, but it is the best yet. Hollywood has taken its first small step towards Christian-themed movies. As a side note the writer said he wrote the script to show how we have to rely on God not ourselves and to get people to think about heaven and hell etc. This is the forerunner to a project set up by Hollywood (the producer of X-2 included) to put CHRISTIAN themes in movies from 2006 to 2012. Hollywood is making an good effort in this area, it will take some time, but they’ll get there. We as Christians should be praying for them and encouraging them.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—James, age 29
Neutral
Neutral—Hollywood loves demons and angels and loves to make Catholicism the backdrop for movies based on them. “Constantine” is secular religiosity traded in for the truth the Bible presents. As entertainment, “Constantine” does not fail. The special effects are top-notch, the scares are there and the plot (if one can get past the convolution of Christian teachings) is interesting. Althogh “Constantine” is tricky. It is not all wrong. There is the definite acknowledgement of spiritual warfare that exists amongst us in another plane. There are instances where faith is expressed as pertinent to salvation when Gabriel (interestingly played as an androgynous human) tells Constantine there is a difference between knowing and believing. What was also interesting was Constantine’s placement of Heaven and Hell.

Neither was in a separate universe but more a different plane. Most of the action takes place in Los Angeles. When Constantine visits Hell, it is Los Angeles burning and when he visits Heaven, the city looks more pleasing than ever. It showed that forces of both good and evil surround us as the Bible does say. Also, Hell is depicted as a place of eternal pain unlike some movies that make it seem like an eternal party.

Unfortunately, the movie takes several liberties from that point. God is no longer the loving Father we know Him to be, but instead a gambler where the chips are souls. He and Satan have made a wager for the soul of mankind and the angels and demons are used to sway mankind to their respective sides.

Christ’s love and redemption is left out and good works takes His place as the way to Heaven. Constantine must commit a selfless act before he can be let into Heaven, otherwise he lives his afterlife in Hell. Hell has its own Bible that extends off the one we as Christians put our faith in. There are other deviations that enter into categories of the occult, etc.

However, if one can put aside the convenient changes to Christian doctrine and enjoy the movie for what it is intended to be, as entertainment, Constantine certainly provides. Christians will be able to sort the good bits from the bad, but its also a shame the movie could not stick closer to Christian beliefs, the plot would still have been as interesting. Nevertheless, Constantine will result in good discussion.

Objectionable content: Aside from the liberties the filmakers took with Christian doctrine, Constantine has several instances of profanity (including one “f” word used by, who else, Gabriel). Violence takes charge and gruesome images of Hell and its demons will upset many.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/3½
—Charles, age 20
Neutral—From a purely entertainment standpoint (meaning that you’re not really applying your grey matter to anything in particular), this is a decent flick. The cinematography and artistic quality is nothing unique but it’s still interesting. The acting could be dubbed “not bad” but it’s nothing that I felt as though I could jump into. This is an easy movie to just sit back and stare at while absently stuffing overpriced junk food in your maw… which I wouldn’t recommend because A) you’ll get fat and, B) you’ll get fat.

Now, from a theological perspective this movie is more than mildly blasphemous and more than mildly offensive. not to mention that it twists the truth of Scripture. Like most religious tinted stories from a secular perspective the reality of God is removed to the following things:
  1. Salvation isn’t as easy as a choice in Christ. salvation is way harder in the movies, and it’s never secure!
  2. God is in a competition with the Devil who is powerful enough to actually supply a negative “balancing” force in which to lure hapless humans into hell.
  3. God tends to be a absentee parent who isn’t really plugged into the reality of our world… nor does He really care.
  4. Demons have much more power than they truthfully have.
  5. The Devil is romanticized as well as some demons. they always have catchy lines and interesting personality quirks that make them perfect for nightclub atmospheres. Not to mention that they tend to dress in style!
  6. Salvation is always mixed between a message of faith (which is typically absent) and more works. the whole story is about John Constantine trying to buy his way into Heaven.
  7. The Devil has the ability to pluck you right out of the hands of God.
  8. Lastly, as always, Catholic dogma and tradition is used to further “doom n’ gloom” the world and all of us helpless people in it. Sorry if you’re a Catholic but it’s tough being a serious Catholic!

Well, to anyone who earnestly seeks the truth you can see where truth becomes fiction in movies such as this. Believers and Non-Believers alike certainly have real fears to contend with in life so it doesn’t help when movies like this scare people into thinking there’s a demon waiting to leap on you and chew out your guts. The true reality of this world and the spiritual battle being fought over our souls is scary enough!
My Ratings: Average/3
—CK, age 30

Neutral—Don’t go see this film if you want good theology. This movie probably does provide some visual realism to the spiritual world but who really knows how realistic the picture is. There are some interesting effects but overall you’re not missing anything by waiting ’til the DVD comes out!
My Ratings: Average/3½
—Bob C, age 41
Negative
Negative—Reeves appears to be sleep walking thru this one… Constantine apparently wants to be both good and bad, and Reeves is so listless at times that no one really cares one way or the other. Constantine triumphs, and yet there is the feeling of loss, dejection, and boredom. Apparently this was the director Francis Lawrence’s first film; he has previously directed music videos, and if this film is any indication, he should probably begin looking for a new line of work. The story-telling has to be among the worst I have ever had the misfortune of seeing; the plot development is horrendous, several scenes are tossed in for no apparent reason, other areas of the so-called plot beg to be developed and are left ignored.

It was almost sad to witness more than a few unintentional comic scenes resulting from bad dialogue. The laughter in the theater had an almost embarrassed quality to it, as though we all knew that what we were laughing at really wasn’t supposed to be funny, but somehow it just came out that way.

The “smashing special effects” were just that—lots of smashing glass shards flying in super slow motion. Although, I will give credit for a rather gruesome and riveting portrayal of hell, with endless souls upon souls, in eternal torment. This was supposed (I think) to be a new twist on the good vs. evil tale, but the lines are so blurred that one can’t really tell what is good and what is bad. The angel Gabriel crosses over to side with the son of Lucifer, a witch doctor provides a neutral night club for agents from both sides, Lucifer and God gamble for the souls of mankind, Lucifer is a healer and granter of life.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of theology in this movie; none of it has anything to do with Christian theology, but it is a telling look at how a post-Christian culture views theology—a liberal sampling and mixture of witchcraft, the occult, paganism, angelolgy, fantasy and neo-Christianity.

It’s sort of a shame this movie was so poorly made, even with the very disturbing premise upon which it was based, there could have been something interesting to talk about here. As it is, the extreme lackluster performance and story make this a film to avoid at all costs.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/1½
—Paul Oyler, age 44
Negative—I was miserably confused. This movie was severely lacking in the creativity/dialogue department. It will probably win a “Razzie” this year. The only thing I somewhat enjoyed at all about “Constantine” was nKeanu Reeves’ performance. He is one actor I never thought I would say that about! I did find some of the content offensive. Especially the part where Keanu makes a 10-15 second obscene gesture at the devil as he (Keanu) is being drawn into Heaven. I mean, C’mon! The Theology was way off. To end on a cliché, I wanted my money back.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/1
—Jeremy Cutlip, age 26
Negative—I can’t see how, as a Christian, one could overlook how far this movie strays from God’s Word. The first scene that slapped my conscience was when Reeves met with someone supposedly representing the angel Gabriel, and the angel Gabriel said “You’re f***ed” to Reeves. Whoa. Then when my brother and I heard Reeves preach false doctrine to the woman… “Jesus didn’t die by crucifixion, he died from the spear of destiny…” That was enough for me. We left. I don’t know how it ended, and don’t care. I’ll stick to God’s Word, and avoid “the plagues described in this book”-REV 22:18
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1
—Brian Connell, age 24

[How did Jesus Christ die? Answer]
Comments from young people
Positive—Well, this movie is not exactly told from a Christian viewpoint. It is about an exorcist who is trying to earn his way into Heaven. The archangel Michael was portrayed as a woman and tries to bring the antichrist into the world. Overall, though, I thought the movie was good. I would definitely not recommend it to younger kids due to the language and violent images.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Nicole, age 16
Positive—Constantine is about a hellbound exorcist battling with terminal lung cancer and the forces of Hell. I will try not to reveal any of the movies plot, because I feel this is a movie that is a must see for all. The cinematography is amazing. This director’s first attempt is a good one. The graphics are amazing, the action sequences are well done, and the acting is dead on. Some may say Keanu is a bit stale, but John Constantine is supposed to be a harda—dying of cancer. I doubt anyone would be too happy in that situation.

Now for the religious rating. Some might not find it offensive. Some may find it extremely offensive. I put offensive even though I found nothing actually offensive about it. The reason is that I don’t mind some fiction in my films, even if it tends to bend the Good Book around a bit. Not everyone is that flexible, so before you go see Constantine, just know this. Satan is there, Satan’s “son” is there, Gabriel is there, with a foul mouth, and exorcism is performed, demons are present, and there is even a scene where Mr. Reeves descends to Hell. These aren’t all the things that may offend, but they are the ones I remember at this writing. If these things don’t stray you away, then go see it!

Just remember, it has an R rating for a reason, and it is by no means a family film. However, if you are up for a good action flick starring Neo himself, then go see it! As soon as possible!
My Ratings: Offensive/5
—Dave Vodolazkiy, age 16
Positive—I was surprised, to say the least, that Reeves would choose to do another semi-religious picture straight after the Matrix, as the two parts (Anti-Hero, World under the world, etc. etc.) are almost the same. I was interested in the film from the start, the promising TV spots and trailers supported that. Well, finally got to see it today, and I have a mixed signal. It’s disappointing, yes, but it also has a lot of high points. It’s flawed, but complete. Interesting, but incredibly boring.

Alright, the premise of the film is all over the place. God and Satan have had a wager for the souls of mankind, a real time bet. There are rules. Neither angles or demons can directly make a human do something, but they are allowed to push them in one direction by merely speaking to them subconsciously, but ultimately, not make them do anything by force. Reeve’s Character, John, has been seeing this battle since birth. He killed himself at a young age, was sent to Hell, but sent back, to be a medium between the two. He makes sure the demons who do to much on Earth stay in Hell. It’s a pretty odd job, even a blessing to see these things, but John does it all for selfish reasons. After twenty years of all of this, he has never trusted in God, nor gave any real thanks to him. He knows all of it is true, but doesn’t believe in it. He’ll do this work, but he won’t give his heart over to God. That’s his downfall. In Constantine’s world, taking one’s life sends us to Hell no matter what, Christian or not. So, since John’s already been to Hell for this sin, he’s going to go back there. In his mind, perhaps, if he sends enough demons to Hell, he’ll earn his way into God’s kingdom. To the film’s credit, it does show very clearly God’s way of salvation. The gospel is presented (By Faith, not by works) as great, and the only way. Perhaps that’s the only real quality of the film that seems to match up with the Bible. Don’t take me wrong. I never expected this film to be accurate, and honestly, it’s not trying to be. It’s a spiritual thriller at heart, but it’s covered in so much Holy Water and Jesus Bullets that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. These aspects don’t offend me of course, but from any perspective, it simply takes away from any emotional effect the film would have.

Well, the rules have been broken. Satan’s demons are coming to Earth to destroy all of mankind. Not fun. So, now John must save the world… Did you really expect much more? The first half of the film is very well done. It has great atmosphere, and never really seems to come away from it. John’s sarcastic and hateful, but likable. Even the spiritual aspects are presented in a good way, whether they’re accurate or not. The film does start to slide though, as it tries to create so many subplots, to the point where the audience just stops caring. Oh, she’s my twin… Oh, Satan’s son is coming back… Oh, John’s friend dies… I was not really interested in any of it. It seems like I’m simply listing the bad aspects of the film, but there are a lot of redeeming qualities. Like it or not, Reeves does a good job. Well, at least, the best he could. He’s not really much of an actor, he has the same emotion and expression in every movie he does. Yet, he’s right for the role. Sadly, Rachel Weisz brings all of her character down. Whatever was interesting about her on paper is now completely destroyed. Shia LaBeouf is the only really good aspect here, and a lot of me wishes he was in more of the film alongside John rather than Weisz. Oh well. Directing is rather well done, cinematography is a big highlight, as well as the special effects. Though it had it’s flaws, the movie kept me interested to the point where I was wondering what would happen in the next few minutes. Well, after seeing White Noise, anything could keep my interest.

The ending was great, yet, Satan’s appearance brought down a lot of it. Sure, you want to be ironic. Satan is really just a hick. That’s wonderful. Just, make it to a point where I can see the irony, not just a stupid plot tool. This was the film’s biggest weakness. Satan. He’s not scary. He’s not ironic. He’s not funny… He’s just… uninteresting. The film was good, though. I was entertained. Something I would pick up on DVD to give another go around. However, wait for DVD. Disappointed, but it’s still above average.
My Ratings: Better than Average/3½
—Dylan, age 13
Movie Critics
…Reeves plays an effective Neo realist in this clever, funny, provocative sci-fi/horror extravaganza… one of those rare pulpy page-to-screen translations that actually gets it right…
—Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
…a lot better than Van Helsing and more professional than the Blade movies, if not quite as much fun as Hellboy
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe
…Reeves has a deliberately morose energy level in the movie…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…The movie incorporates plot points and characters from the comic, but they’re recombined and shuffled around…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic