This post is a bit of a cheat, because we did not rent Constantine (2005) on Netflix. We bought it. I'd heard one good review (and dozens of snide comments), but thought it might be a hoot. When I saw a it as part of a 3 Blu-ray set, along with V for Vendetta and Watchmen (the Alan Moore set, presumably) for around ~$10, I figured "What the hell."
Constantine is based on the Hellblazer comic series that I have never seen, although I gather it isn't too faithful outside of the basic premise: John Constantine, freelance demonhunter and exorcist. Constantine here is played by Keanu Reeves, doing what he does best - wearing a black sports coat and skinny tie. Also, smoking incessantly, and giving demons hell.
You don't get much backstory - just Constantine showing up to do some exorcism, then dropping in on Papa Midnight's bar (Djimon Hounsou) where the angels and demons gather to meet the Angel Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive). Transcendent, androgynous Tilda always welcome.
As Tilda explains to Keanu: "You are going to die young because you've smoked a pack a day since you were 15, and you are going to hell because of the life you took." Constantine is trying to avoid damnation by acting like a private eye, but against demons. His latest case is Rachel Weisz, a cop whose twin sister died under satanic circumstances. He is aided by his sidekick, apprentice and cab driver Shia Labeouf.
That's right, Keanu and Shia in the same movie. I know I joke about Keanu, but I am actually quite fond of him. His acting is a little stiff and mannered, his accent kind of goofy, but his cheekbones are to die for. And I think his instincts are sound - he tends to pick material that I'll like, and that work around his limitations. Shia, on the other hand, is almost always annoying, but he does all right here.
Constantine has a nice mix of neo-noir and action, with some cute touches, like Constantine's lighter covered in signs and sigils, and his gold-plated, cruciform shotgun. There's a TV series out now, based more on the comic, and we want to see that too (when Netflix gets around to it).