After being murdered for quitting his role as a ruthless yet moral government assassin, Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is sent to Hell, where he makes a pact with the demon Malebolgia--if Simmons is allowed see his lover, Wanda, again, he will agree to lead the demon's armies to storm the gates of Heaven. Transformed into a superhuman entity with shape-shifting powers and quick regeneration capabilities, Simmons (soon to be dubbed "Spawn" by Malebolgia's crony, The Violator) returns to Earth and attempts to reunite with Wanda, not knowing that five years have passed. He also seeks revenge on his former boss and killer, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), who has made a deal with The Violator to develop a lethal virus to take over the world, where Wynn is promised to be king.
Spawn wages an inner battle between good and evil as he tries to come to terms with selling his soul and what it could mean for humankind. Despite excellent effects and great potential, Spawn seems to come up short. While White certainly displays verve in his characterization of the twisted hero, he cannot overcome some forced dialogue. On the flip side, the usually engaging John Leguizamo portrays the sinister Violator--an evil monster masquerading as a rotund, weird-looking clown--as an irritating lackey who spews overbearing sarcasm and incessantly banal one-liners. Admitted, many of Spawn's action sequences are fun, and the transitions effectively brisk, but more could have been done to explore how Simmons grapples with his humanity in these daunting circumstances. But if you want sizzling action sequences and digital effects, this film should keep you happy. --Bryan Reesman