Francis Lawrence’s film, based on the DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel Hellblazer, begins with the following message: “He who possesses the Spear of Destiny holds the fate of the world in his hands.” The filmmakers then throw in that “the Spear of Destiny has been missing since the end of World War II.”
We are next introduced to the smoking ruins of what looks to be a recently bombed church somewhere in Mexico. Manuel the Mexican Vagrant (Jesse Ramirez, I think) and a friend are searching the dirt of the ruins (for bugs to eat?) when Manuel stumbles upon said Spear of Destiny wrapped in a Nazi flag. (Hitler, the Internet informs me, is said by some to have had the Spear until his defeat). Manuel then gets hit by a car. Fortunately, because he has been possessed by the son of the Devil (i.e., el Diablo), he is unshaken and perfectly capable of darting toward the California-Mexico border.
In a bizarre turn, Manuel and the Devil are halted from entering the country by immigration officials. Roughly an hour of the film from here on is simply a documentary-like procedural about border control, the new Minuteman Project in Arizona, their conflicts with the ACLU, and “coyote” people smugglers.
When we are finally introduced to titular John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), we find a tall, slender, well-dressed guy that smokes a lot and creatively exorcises demons. Constantine isn’t a very happy guy, though. His Heaven-sent gift of being able to see demons led him, as a young man, to commit suicide. This, of course, damned him to Hell and he’s been sulking about it ever since.
The movie goes on to follow Constantine around while he tries to figure out what kind of onslaught the guys down in The Hot Place are planning. He also must save the world while saving the heroin/love interest (Rachel Weisz) from various villainous characters. There are many computer effects. There are close calls. And, there’s another thing that Constantine is unhappy about: he’s bitter that he got stuck in movie limbo between the livelier Hellboy and the more gratifyingly dark Sin City. Disillusioned by this fact, Constantine pouts, “God’s a kid with an ant farm, lady. He’s not planning anything.”