Guilty pulp noir pleasure

click to enlarge Constantine's Keanu Reeves and - Djimon Hounsou. - DAVID JAMES
DAVID JAMES
Constantine's Keanu Reeves and Djimon Hounsou.

Like the Hellblazer comic book on which it's based, Constantine aims for a dense fusion of pulp noir and gothic horror and, for the most part, the movie pulls it off.

Balanced neatly between the deadly serious and the tongue-in-cheek, the movie posits a vaguely timeless L.A. where angels, demons and assorted half-breed mutations are commonplace, and then seals the deal with everybody's favorite bad actor, Keanu Reeves, as a chain-smoking, psychic gumshoe trying to keep the legions of Satan at bay.

Constantine is a guilty pleasure, for sure, but a fairly classy one; the film is thick on atmosphere and blessedly brief on balls-to-the-wall action, and the lushly fatalistic mood and noir-ish take on a fantasy genre happily recall some of the best bits from Blade Runner. Don't look here for the exquisite characterizations and resonant themes of Ridley Scott's retro-sci-fi classic, but there are some pleasant parallels, with even Reeves' character - a hardboiled blue collar type living on borrowed time - seeming like a hybrid of Harrison Ford's and Rutger Hauer's characters. Also stars Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Djimon Hounsou and Pruitt Taylor Vince.

Constantine (R) opens Feb. 18 at local theaters. 1/2

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