Hellboy (2019) - Movie Review

You will never realize how much you need Guillermo del Toro in your life until you see the reboot of Hellboy.

Hellboy is a 2019 American superhero film based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name. Directed by Neil Marshall, the film stars David Harbour in the title role, alongside Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, and Thomas Haden Church. It is a reboot of the Hellboy film series, and the third live-action film in the franchise. The film draws inspiration from the comic books Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury.

Premise

Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.

Director: Neil Marshall
Writers: Andrew Cosby (screenplay by), Mike Mignola (based on the Dark Horse Comic Book "Hellboy" created by)
Stars: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane


Long gone are the master filmmaker’s stylistic signatures: his meticulous eye for detail in the biggest monster and tiniest fairy, his deft tonal balance of the weird and the whimsical, and—above all else—an obvious affection for his creatures, both good and evil. Instead, under the watch of director Neil Marshall, we get empty bombast and a million bloody ways to rip a body to pieces, too few of which are inventive.

Marshall takes over for del Toro, who directed the original 2004 “Hellboy” and its sequel, 2008’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” films that were an ideal pairing of director and star with Ron Perlman as the wisecracking, half-demon superhero. And while it would be a daunting task for anyone to follow in those esteemed footsteps, Marshall—who mostly has horror films and television credits to his name, including “Game of Thrones”—allowed his take on the character to spiral wildly out of control.

Granted, that’s partly the point. The script from Andrew Cosby, based on Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comic series, is cheekily anachronistic and self-aware. It’s also bloated with its many flashbacks and tangents introducing more characters and subplots than anyone could possibly follow. And this “Hellboy” really wallows in every last drop of its R-rating whereas the previous films were PG-13, upping the graphic violence, profanity, and overall gnarliness. It’s the further Deadpool-ization of an already irreverent and inappropriate character, and—for a little while—it’s admittedly kind of a kick.

But just because a movie is ridiculous and knows it’s ridiculous, that doesn’t automatically make its ridiculousness work. “Hellboy” stops being fun when it stops being funny—when it abruptly shifts gears into a more relentlessly bloody, violent mood. And eventually, the film reaches a point of extreme, overindulgent insanity. Even that might have been more tolerable, though, if the action sequences were choreographed and staged in a more thrilling manner. Instead, we get crude, computer-generated brutality, choppily edited to the tune of overplayed rock anthems like Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to My Nightmare” and Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart.”

At the center of it all, the endlessly intriguing and appealing David Harbour can only do so much. He more than ably steps into Perlman’s giant boots to play the hulking and hard-drinking Hellboy. It’s good to see the “Stranger Things” star continue to get leading roles after a lifetime of strong supporting character work. Harbour has just the right look, the grizzled attitude, the way with a snappy one-liner. He even gets the opportunity to explore Hellboy’s sensitive side buried deep beneath his beefy, red exterior as the character discovers the truth of who he really is. (Because of course, this “Hellboy” is an origin story. Every comic book hero gets one, and usually more than that.) But increasingly, he’s called upon to contribute little more than sheer brute strength. He’s also stuck with far too many groaners, including one truly terrible pun toward the end that had me saying: “Oh no, no no no,” out loud to the screen.

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