"I need to see what you see."
"You do this and there's no turning back. You see them and they see you. Understand?"
John Constantine has the ability to see "them" - the demons and angels that, in the world of this film, are all around us.
"What if I told you that God and the devil had made a wager for the souls of all mankind? No direct contact with humans - that would be the rule - just influence. See who would win. They call it 'the balance.'"
Armed with religious icons and knowledge of obscure, ancient texts, Constantine performs exorcisms and tries to keep the evil from dominating life in Los Angeles; but it becomes clear something is tipping the balance:
"A demon just attacked me right out in the open on Figueroa. Not some angry half-breed, Midnight, a full-fledged demon here on our plane."
"Clearly I do not have to remind you that is impossible. Demons stay in hell, angels in heaven: the great detente of the original superpowers."
"Thanks for the history lesson, Midnight."
Keanu Reeves stars as Constantine, bringing to life the character from the Hellblazer graphic novels or comic books. "I wasn't familiar with the character before I read the script; and when I read the script and then familiarized myself with the work, I saw that what was important was the essence of Constantine. We worked really hard to keep that aspect of it, because it's really what it's all about: that kind of hard-edged, hard-boiled, world-weary, cynical, fatalistic, nihilistic, self-interested ... with a heart ... guy. I hope that fans of the comic don't think that we sabotaged something that is so well-loved," he says.
"Are you still trying to buy your way into heaven?"
"What about the minions I've sent back. That alone should guarantee my entry ..."
"How many times have I told you: that's not the way that this works."
"Haven't I served Him enough? What does He want from me?"
"Only the usual: self-sacrifice, belief."
There is religious symbolism and ritual woven through what is essentially a horror-thriller; but Reeves believes it is appropriate. "The piece itself is using icons and a platform - a kind of Catholic, heaven and hell, God and devil, fighting for human souls - but I was hoping that these concepts could become a platform that is humanistic. The journey of this particular hero is, hopefully, relateable; even though there are such fantastical characters and situations, it is still a man trying to figure it out," he says.
Rachel Weisz co-stars as Angela, a police detective who turns to Constantine because she believes he can help her solve the mystery of her twin sister's death.
"Just before my sister was committed she became deeply paranoid. She started talking about demons and angels. I think someone got to her, Mr. Constantine. I think they brainwashed her into stepping off that roof."
The English actress whose hits include the two Mummy films, admits horror is not her favorite genre; but she found this one different. "There's something about it that I couldn't get out of my head - something about the world that it created and the character in the midst of it. I thought she was a very interesting character: someone who was haunted by her past and was complex with many layers. It was an interesting female role," she says.
Director Francis Lawrence makes his feature film debut with Constantine after a successful career making music videos. "I didn't want to make a 'comic book' movie, even though it is based on a comic book, so I didn't want to go down that path of comic book movie cliches. I did want to focus on character and story, so I tried to root it in a reality; but there's also kind of a timeless quality to Constantine. He seems somewhat like a timeless character and it also has some noir and hard-boiled aspects to it, so I wanted to capture that," he says.
They are qualities and themes reminiscent of the three Matrix movies; but Reeves says it's a classic hero's journey so that, like Neo in The Matrix, this character has to face his destiny. "Learning about this kind of curse that was given to him as a kid - 'a gift,' another character says, but Constantine doesn't see it quite like that and I think that part of the journey is Constantine understanding his life and the circumstances. He comes to a kind of ambivalent peace, of sorts," he says.
"Why me, Gabriel?"
"You are going to die young because you smoked 30 cigarettes a day since you were 15 and you're going to go to hell because of the life you took."
Constantine was filmed on location in Los Angeles and the international cast features Tilda Swinton as the angel Gabriel; rock musician Gavin Rossdale [of the band Bush] plays the suave demon Balthazar; Djimon Hounsou is the hero's Earthly ally; and Peter Stormare personifies evil as Satan.