The Spear of Destiny was supposedly the Roman weapon that killed Christ on the cross, but it's whereabouts have been lost since the end of the Second World War. That is until a Mexican scavenger uncovers it in a ruined building in the middle of nowhere - picking it up, he walks purposefully away but suddenly a car smashes straight into him. This barely makes him pause, as he untangles himself from the wreckage and strides on towards Los Angeles, where exorcist John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) has been called to an apartment block. The reason for this is a young girl has been possessed by a demon, and Constantine is here to draw it out of her, which he does with the aid of a mirror. However, fate has bigger plans for the man, as he will soon find out...
When it was announced that Reeves would be playing the anti-hero Constantine, the air was filled with the wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments of comic book fans, who would all tell you that Constantine was a British character and looked nothing like Keanu, who would obviously have the complex role tailored to his questionable talents. The comic's best idea is that Heaven and Hell, God and Satan were basically involved in a power struggle that was more to do with vanity than actually caring about the souls of us lowly humans, and Constantine was a man who exploited this situation and foiled the schemes of the angels and demons, often for his own benefit.
This incarnation of the character, scripted by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, sees him still chain smoking but here that's one of his personality traits rather than a little idiosyncrasy to give him colour. In fact the depth that years of comic issues lend are not to be found here, where Reeves seems to be doing a Clint Eastwood impersonation and conveying his haunted nature by frowning quite a bit. He's joined by the mysteriously significant Rachel Weisz, as police detective Angela whose twin sister Isabel has recently committed suicide. Or has she? Angela refuses to believe that this is true seeing as how Isabel was a devout Catholic and taking her own life would have sent her straight to hell.
Funnily enough this is something Constatine knows all about after he tried to take his own life himself some years before because he found the supernatural visions tormenting him too much to handle. He may have died for two minutes, but having been brought back to life he now is searching for a way to avoid going to Hell when he dies permanently, which may be happening quite soon as he has contracted terminal lung cancer from the chain smoking. So what will be the good deed that gets him in God's good books (but not THAT good book, obviously)? Could it be saving Angela from the forces of darkness?
Constantine doesn't have much luck with his friends, or rather, they don't have much luck with him, often turning up dead throughout the course of the film due to nasty causes. But with all this death and destruction frequently rendered through the medium of computer effects, the final impression is not one of higher forces battling for control over the real world, because none of it seems particularly real anyway. All those effects come across as pretty adornments, whether it be an demon fashioned from insects or a flaming interpretation of the underworld, and unlike The Exorcist or even The Omen, only serves to exist in a flashy vacuum of its own making. Compensations include Tilda Swinton as a self-serving Gabriel, but Peter Stormare's Lucifer is embarrassingly whimsical, and the ending leaves with more of a shrug than a world-shaking blast. Music by Klaus Badelt and Brian Tyler.