By Miki Turner
Special to Page 3

Keanu Reeves
Reeves has been through hell and back ... three times.
LOS ANGELES -- Life is hell for Keanu Reeves.

On a personal level, the 40-year-old actor is in mourning over the dead and gone 2005 NHL season.

"It's kind of weird," said Reeves, who was an MVP goalie in high school and now plays in recreational leagues. "It's kinda like ... where did hockey go? I still play hockey, but my friends and I are like, where's the hockey?"

Professionally, however, Reeves is in a different kind of hell.

In "Constantine," a film that opens nationwide on Friday, the Lebanon native plays John Constantine, an irreverent, hard-drinking, chain-smoking detective who is chosen by a godly force to save the world from Satan's stepchildren.

How does he do it? By exorcising computer-generated demons from flesh and blood mortals, of course.

While the lean and lithe Reeves lacks the physicality of a real superhero, it takes a real man -- one perpetually dressed in "Matrix" black -- to kick celluloid demon butt. And Reeves does so convincingly.

"There were no CGI [computer generated image] Constantines in this one," Reeves said during a recent interview to promote the film.

"When Constantine gets punched by the demon and goes flying backwards, I got to do that. There was some wirework -- I did this roll in the street when a car is coming, but it was all pretty basic. It wasn't like a triple sidekick or a wire deal. But it was fun. I like fake fights and doing all that stuff."

THE KEANU FILE
Name: Keanu Charles Reeves
Born: Beirut, Lebanon
Age: 40
Residence: Toronto
Family: Single
Notable films: "Speed," "The Matrix," "The Matrix Reloaded," "The Matrix Revolutions," "Bill & Ted's Bogus Adventure," "Something's Gotta Give"
Other talents: Plays hockey, and bass in a band called "Becky."
Vices: Cigarettes
Hobbies: Ballroom dancing, horseback riding and surfing
Notable achievements: Recently got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Having made his initial trip to hell in 1991 in "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," and again, six years later, in "Devil's Advocate," "Constantine," marks Reeves' third big screen trip to the fiery pits of eternal damnation. But this time, like the promos boast, "Hell won't have him."

It turns out that a young John Constantine's suicide sent him south, only to be granted a reprieve. Now, in his second chance on earth, he's intent on sticking around. So, he uses his burdensome "gift" of spotting the nefarious half-breeds -- part angel/part demon -- through their human facades, for the greater good of mankind.

"I fell in love with the guy," said Reeves, who was not familiar with the comic book series before booking the film. "I had one of the best times I've ever had working on a film with this particular project. I would love to play Constantine again, as long as I worked with the same people."

Translation: He's up for the sequel.

Don't be surprised if John Constantine reminds you of Reeves' character, Neo, from the "Matrix" trilogy. First, there's the whole black wardrobe thing. Then, the fact that neither character could make it through the day without some sort of beat down, and of course, both John and Neo have been appointed by some higher power to save the world.

Despite the similarities, Reeves hopes that astute moviegoers will determine that Constantine and Neo have varying degrees of complexity.

Keanu Reeves
Reeves cleans up nicely for the red carpet.

"When I saw the film ["Constantine"], I was transported by the film. Hopefully, the film is engaging enough for the whole two hours and six minutes that you're not going, 'He is wearing a black coat, and he is wearing a black coat.' You know, I am sorry, I don't mean to be flippant, but they are not the same."

One notable difference is that Neo was certainly luckier in love. While Constantine teams up with a beautiful detective (played by Rachel Weisz) to investigate the mysterious death of her twin sister, hugs and kisses aren't the kind of sparks that fly.

"It's one of those things that you can see that in the couple ... that it can be there ... and yet it can't be there, because it's not the time or place," Reeves said. "There's something with what they're going through, yeah, it's there. But they can't kiss. They want to kiss, but they can't kiss.

"At the end of the film, they do say they have an interest in seeing each other again, so it's romantic in that sense."

Hmm ... yet another reason for a sequel.

"We could have 'Son of Constantine' and I'll play him, too, CGI," Reeves said.

Miki Turner covers the fusion of sports and entertainment for Page 3 in L.A. She can be reached at dmiki@aol.com.