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Constantine

WHO WANTS to go to hell? Constantine does not. So he sends the audience.

Warner Bros' "Constantine" seems like the script Keanu Reeves heard during his "Matrix" hangover. The story about the demon-slayer who has to go to the very place he sent them all: Hell.

How he tries to win his place back in heaven is what the rest of this good versus evil theology-meets-science fiction-meets-Keanu Reeves-meets-special effects tale is all about.

The film at best, works as a 121 minute-long anti-cigarette-smoking commercial. Keanu Reeves smokes, gets lung cancer and has to go to hell. He fights his demons, and finally turns to gum before the credits roll up.

Convincing? Well, one would suspect, considering the style with which Constantine keeps lighting a cigarette at the drop of his last one. So much so, that the Keanu introduction scene with the bottom-angle slow motion shot of the cigarette falling, made one suspect if it was Superstar Rajnikant who was getting out of the car.

Next, Keanu, with his widely-known special (Freeze Frame: Special is used here as a more sensitive option to the word: challenged) acting skills, goes up the building to whisper his name to the demon possessing a victim: ``Constantine, John Constantine,'' almost like a superstar would say ``Malai da, Annamalai.'' Or like Pierce Brosnan would say: ``Bond, James Bond.''

So what should I do, Keanu must have asked. And debutant director Francis Lawrence probably replied: ``Just the usual. First, the blank straight look, then light a cigarette, we'll get you a really cool lighter, take a puff, say your lines, drop the cigarette, walk off. In the crisis scenes, just give me your usual `What-the-hell-am-I-doing-in-this-movie' look. The rest, I'll manage with special effects.''

The result: The film has 420 shots of visual effects, apart from the splendid samples of Keanu's acting prowess, that is.

Though based on `Hellblazer' comics, "Constantine," uses Los Angeles as the backdrop (cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot) instead of the regular British setting in London.

If you are a Rachel Weisz fan, then you have double the reason to watch the film. Yes, twin-sister beaten to death formula: one dies, the other wants revenge.

"Constantine" uses Christian references and biblical characters to sound profound but only ends up as a comic attempt at turning a kiddie comic book into a "Matrix"- like movie with its cornball punchlines. (Pssst: Check out the scene when Constantine shows Satan the finger on his way to heaven and what follows next. Hilarious.)

SUDHISH KAMATH

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