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Wednesday November 21st 2018

Constantine | 2005

Constantine filming location: Pan American Lofts, South Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles
Constantine location: John Constantine's apartment above the 'bowling alley': Pan American Lofts, South Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles

English occult detective John Constantine, who looks like Sting in the comic books, now looks like Keanu Reeves and lives in Los Angeles. That’s Hollywood.

Disappointingly, Francis Lawrence’s film doesn’t find the right tone for the books’ theological musings or sardonic humour and relies too much on music video visuals.

The haunted, chain-smoking Constantine, stricken with lung cancer, destined for Hell and trying to earn back a position in Heaven, lives in downtown Los Angeles, which, to be honest, is not a good start.

His apartment above the ‘Bowl Bowl Bowl’ (guess what?) bowling alley is the Pan-Am Building, South Broadway at Third Street. This was, in its rundown years, the ‘Yukon Hotel’ in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and the grubby home of the comatose ‘Sloth’ victim in David Fincher’s Se7en.

The Pan-Am stands diagonally opposite the Bradbury Building, probably the  most famous location used in Blade Runner and, in fact, you can glimpse the exterior of the Bradbury from Constantine’s window.

There’s no stopping gentrification and the Pan-Am is now brightly renovated as the Pan American Lofts, 253 South Broadway and, no, it doesn’t contain a bowling alley. It never has.

The bowling alley, in the bowels of which Constantine’s paraphernalia supplier Beeman (Max Baker) lives, is Shatto 39 Lanes, 3255 West 4th Street at Vermont Avenue in Midtown LA. And, yes, it does say 'Bowl bowl bowl' outside.

Constantine is called out by his friend, troubled priest Father Hennessey (Pruitt Taylor Vince) to deal with a possessed girl in a rundown apartment building. This block is the Olympic Hotel, 725 South Westlake Avenue, just south of MacArthur Park. If you think it looks like the place for your budget stay, well, best check out a few reviews first.

During the exorcism, Constantine is disturbed to discover a ‘soldier demon’ (whatever that is) has broken the rules and unexpectedly passed through into our human dimension.

For help and advice, he turns to Papa Midnite (Djimon Hounsou) who runs a kind of supernatural ’Rick’s Bar’ nightclub, where semi-angels and semi-demons (referred to as halfbreeds) can kick back with a cold beer and take a well-earned break from the ceaseless battle between good and evil.

Despite seeming to be in Hollywood (that’s the Capital Records Tower on Vine Street in the background of course), the club is the, since closed, Hacienda Real Nightclub, which was housed in the basement of the magnificent 1930s Eastern Columbia Building, 849 South Broadway, and a movie star in its own right.

The other strand of the story sees LAPD detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) signalling her Catholic faith by attending confession at St Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, 621 West Adams Boulevard in the University Park district southwest of Downtown LA.

St Vincent’s must be pretty much used to diabolical happenings by now. Back in 1999, Arnold Schwarzenegger battled Satan here in End of Days.

Constantine filming location: Los Angeles Center Studios, West Fifth Street, Downtown Los Angeles
Constantine location: the hospital from which Isabel falls: Los Angeles Center Studios, West Fifth Street, Downtown Los Angeles

Angela’s troubled identical twin sister, Isabel, (yes, Weisz again) has been committed to hospital and is mysteriously compelled to take a dive from its roof. Despite that ostentatious CGI cross, the modern hospital facility, which is also where Constantine gets bad news about the state of his lungs, is the old Unocal Building, Downtown Los Angeles.

After Unocal moved out, the block was used so frequently for film productions that it was eventually converted to become the LA Center Studios, 1202 West Fifth Street at Beaudry Street, Downtown.

Predictably it's been featured in plenty of movies, including The X-Files, Mr & Mrs Smith and Drive.

Refusing to believe her sister would have committed suicide, Angela is prompted to visit Constantine to ask for help in finding out what drove Isabel to her death.

He's is not too keen on helping out, but changes his mind and follows Angela from his apartment, where the two are suddenly attacked nearby by winged demons in front of the nearby Chapman Building, 756 Broadway at 8th Street, Downtown.

It’s time for Constantine to make one of his infrequent visits to Hell to find out what’s going on, using a ceremony which involves Angela’s cat and a bowl of water. Don’t try this at home.

He conducts the ritual in Angela’s apartment within that smart modern development which you might not have noticed has sprung up alongside the 101 Freeway in Hollywood.

Don’t go looking for it. There’s no such place, it’s a digital construct.

Forces of darkness are also closing in on Father Hennessey, who frantically raids a local liquor store only to discover that the bottles disturbingly refuse to give up their contents. Nevertheless, as the demonic Balthasar (Gavin Rossdale) looks on, he ends up drowning in alcohol.

Constantine filming location: Hoff Building, East 5th Street, Downtown Los Angeles
Constantine location: Father Hennessey raids the liquor store: Hoff Building, East 5th Street, Downtown Los Angeles | Photograph: Google Streetview

This little store is in the old 1905 GM Hoff Building, 118 East 5th Street at Los Angeles Street. It's in a pretty rundown area of Downtown, but the Hoff is nevertheless photogenic enough to have been used as Eddie Moscone’s bail bond office in Martin Brest’s 1988 Midnight Run, and it’s outside the building that beleaguered citizens of ‘Gotham City’ queue up for emergency supplies in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.

Constantine is now in no mood to take ‘no’for an answer when he demands to use ‘the chair’, the old 'sparky' from Sing Sing prison, which now languishes in the back room of Papa Midnite’s club.

It's housed in a strangely Middle Eastern-style stone vault, which is the Main Mausoleum of Angeles Abbey Memorial Park, 1515 East Compton Boulevard, in Compton. A cemetery and chapel built in 1923 for a scion of an obviously wealthy shipbuilding family, it’s a mash-up of Byzantine, Moorish and Spanish architectural styles – remember, this was the era of reckless exotica which also spawned Grauman's Chinese and Egyptian Theatres.

And finally, to the cross-shaped pool where Constantine must face off against the Archangel Gabriel and the Devil himself (Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare finally delivering the crazily OTT style and energy the film needed) which was, unsurprisingly, built back in the LA Center Studios.

Just imagine what Health and Safety would have to say about those sharp corners.