To be honest, I wasn’t planning on reviewing Hellboy, the 2019 reboot from Neil Marshall (The Descent). In fact, I’ve never so much as seen a Hellboy comic or a minute of the other two films. However, after walking in with absolutely no expectations, I emerged with an enormous shit-eating grin and two hours’ worth of mind-blowing kills, transformations, dismemberments, and bisections seared into my brain.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way. Hellboy is an exposition-heavy action/superhero trope-fest with tons of narration and heavily edited, difficult-to-follow action set pieces. In other words, it’s a comic book movie! Hell, there’s even narration and exposition during some of the heavily edited action set pieces. There’s also far too much CGI blood, and that’s unfortunate. Lastly, Ron Perlman is a fucking national treasure, and David Harbour (Stranger Things) is, last I checked, not Ron Perlman.
On his own terms, however, Harbour delights and charms as the titular Hellboy. Harbor brings his own wit and sarcasm to bring the lovaable beast with two big horns to life. By all accounts, those comparing it to the original films find the 2019 version coming up short. While I obviously can’t compare them, I do know the 2019 isn’t a bad movie simply because it isn’t better than a different movie. Taking the film “as is” comes with its own set of challenges. Among them, the question of what, exactly, it is.
Throughout the first two thirds, the story unfolds as a quirky action comedy, while still providing enough gore and violence to satisfy most horror fans. Marshall earns an R-rating with hardcore kills, penetration, decapitation, and more. By the time you’re hooked on the violence, it pivots into a legit horror movie. The director summons grotesque demons, jump-scares, and as much dread as the ridiculous Arthurian premise can muster. Imagine Wolfcop with the “big budget” treatment and you’ll have some sense of the tone and visuals Hellboy has in store.
Classic character actors Ian McShane (John Wick, Deadwood) and Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, The Cave) flank Harbour, adding their own flavor to what would otherwise be clichéd roles. Meanwhile, Sasha Lane (American Honey, Daniel Isn’t Real) looks poised for a breakout. They’re all individually great, even if their chemistry doesn’t always catalyze. While the “sum” may lack synergy, there’s still enough good in the “parts” for horror fans to have a good time. Leave preconceived notions of Hellboys-past at the door and just enjoy the fun while it lasts!
Hellboy is in theaters everywhere Friday, April 12, 2019.
‘Hellboy’: A Gloriously Unholy Offspring Of Action, Comedy, And Horror [Review]