Friday, April 22, 2011

The Top Five Reasons Constantine Is My Favorite Bad Movie

Water For Elephants comes out this Friday and while it may not seem like my cup of tea there is at least one reason I can’t help but have a little curiosity.

Namely, director Francis Lawrence is responsible for my favorite bad movie of all time.

Yes I hold the purest bad movie affection for Constantine. It’s not a film that’s so bad it’s good. It’s not even exactly a guilty pleasure. It’s a straight up bad movie, ill conceived at multiple levels. A weird little mongrel of a film as unlovely and clumsy as a three legged dog, and I can’t help but love it.

So here are the top five reasons why Constantine is my favorite bad movie.

5: This Shot:

This is a shot of Keanu Reeves, feet in a bucket of water, staring into the eyes of a cat as he waits patiently to be transported to hell. If there is a shot that better sums up the zen slacker cadence that makes Reeves such an appealing presence (to er… um… me) then I don’t know what is. The thing I like about Reeves as a performer is that there’s never a feeling from him that he’s above the material. While virtually any other star would signal “I’ve got a cat on my lap, my feet are in a bucket of water, and I’m waiting to be sent to hell? Can you believe this shit?” It looks to Reeves as this is the most natural thing in the world. Reeves’ default mode is “I’m down with this.” And though this sometimes causes him to give literally the worst reaction shot of all time…

It also allows him to summon a weird and appealing intensity when he’s forced to play his scenes against this.

4. A Lot Of The Movie Genuinely Works:

While it is true that much of Constantine is a very silly movie I’ll maintain that much of the movie works surprisingly well.

While it many saw it as blasphemy to move Constantine from England (and cast you know, fucking Keanu Reeves) to give the film it’s credit it makes as good of use of its LA locale's unique atmosphere as any horror film I’ve ever seen. From the Tagalong tenament building of it’s opening exorcism…

To the club culture where you can have a lot of fun...

and get into a lot of trouble...

Plus the films visual imagination is truly sterling. It’s low key noir style holds up surprisingly well. As does it’s creative monster design. Most impressive the conceptions of Heaven and Hell as literal reflections of the earthly plane.

It's a well executed idea that literally looks like no other representation of the places we’ve ever seen before. There’s no denying that if nothing else Constantine is a neat movie to look at for the majority of it’s run time.

3. Peter Stomare As Satan:

Is it any surprise that the man who fed Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper would turn out to be a great Satan?

Stomare’s Lucifer is a synthesis. For the most part playing the popular conception of a “charming old devil” favored in recent years, part animal. Avuncular, conversational, and good natured, witty enough to light up Constantine’s smoke with a “I’ve got stock.” But beneath it all a sense of genuine menace. He’s playing nice with Constantine because he knows he’s going to have all of eternity to play mean with him. It’s a performance that’s both theatrical and subtle. Funny and genuinely creepy

I mean just look at his face when he turns the tables on Gabriel.

It’s not every performance that can have this moment…

And this moment…

And sell both with equal intensity.

2. Shia LaBouf Gets Bounced Around Like A Fucking Superball:

The pleasures of this shot are self explanatory.

1. Gavin Rossdale Gets His Face Melted Off:

And unlikely as it may be Constantine fits in an even MORE satisfying case of celebrity violence wish fulfillment.

And THAT is for "Everything Zen"! Fucking pompous grunge ruining douche.


le0pard13 said...

Count me as another fan of this film, Bryce. Picked up the Blu-ray Disc of the film last year and still enjoyed the Hell (hehe) out of it. I think you nailed why Keanu (still one of the better first names to work in the film history... ever) enjoys a loyal following right along with an equal amount of detractors. Whether he's limited as an actor, he continues to give whatever film he's in a sincere effort (where others would just be happy to mail it in). Thanks, my friend.

p.s., kudos for giving Peter Stomare As Satan his due ;-).

Unknown said...

I also really like this film as well. I think it helps if you haven't read and no nothing about source material. I went in blind and actually enjoyed the hell out of it. This may also be due to the presence of Rachel Weisz playing good-looking twin sisters. I also like all the cool gadgets that Constantine carries around with him. That cross gun thingy he has is awesome. I also thought the opening exorcism sequence was very cool and well shot - a nice way to introduce us to this world and to Constantine.

And I also second the knocking around of Shia LeBeouf and Gavin Rossdale. Bravo, sir!

Erich Kuersten said...

The general consensus that Constantine, and Daredevil or Elektra for that matter, are bad while the Spider and Iron men are goddamned masterpieces is a complete mystery to me. What do they use to decide, a dart board? I thought Constantine a very fine guilty pleasure, far more so than another few Reeves movies that have done better. I think it's probably the Christian angle that spooks 'em, or that Reeves smokes so is a threat to the helath of childrens... good list of why it's great, my brother. Death to the hacktors Rossdale and La Beefre!

Simon said...

But what of badass androgynous Tilda Swinton? WHAT OF!?

Anyways. I like this list.

Spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spencer said...

I am yet another fan of this movie; I didn't even realize the consensus was that it was bad. (To be fair, the only Hellblazer comic I tried reading involved an asinine two-headed football hooligan demon, so it isn't like I hold the source material in very high regard.)

Edit: Blogger really needs an edit function.

Adam Zanzie said...

Man the only thing of Francis Lawrence's I've ever admired is his music video for Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever".

Needless to say, my reasons for admiring it had nothing to do with Lawrence's direction.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ le0: Thanks bud. It's also the reason why I'd love to see Keanu in more PKD adaptations he was amazing in Scanner Darkly.

@ JD: Yeah that was the thing that surprised me on the rewatch. Just how many of the horror scenes still work as horror.

@ Erich: I think Constantine was a case of just being weird enough to be offputting. If memory serves me correct though it was a pretty big hit, and as this comment thread shows there is a lot of affection for it.

@ Simon: Ah I know! In hindsight I either should have paired her up with Stomare or at least given her an honorable mention. But I was running low on time so I had to cut. Thanks for the kind words.

@ Spencer: Surely you're not downplaying the importance of the issue of Two Headed Drunken Football Hooligans in our society today?

@ Adam: Well played sir.

Alex said...

Oh man I love this post, and I totally love this movie. It's both incredibly bad but also surprisingly good, which is basically exactly what you articulated. Awesome.

Peter Stormare is great, but I would say that Tilda Swinton is equally as excellent in this. Her androgynous Gabriel is weird and creepy and funny all at once.