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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Hellboy movie review: A deafening mish-mash of partly likeable characters

Hellboy movie review: David Harbour of Stranger Things does a fine enough job as the brick-red man who emerged from the depths of hell with sawed horns on the forehead, a tail and a metallic hammer-like appendage for an arm.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Shalini Langer | New Delhi | Updated: April 12, 2019 10:25:04 am
HellBoy movie review Hellboy movie review: Hellboy is a fully formed, wisecracking and largely well-adjusted killing machine.

Hellboy movie cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian Mcshane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim
Hellboy movie director: Neil Marshall
Hellboy movie rating: 2 stars

Let’s grant this one: nobody does “beings” belonging to another realm better than Guillermo del Toro. Stamped with an Oscar certification. Why even try?

And if you do, like director Marshall here, why have this deafening mish-mash of partly likeable characters drowned literally in blood and body parts? Don’t tell me you have seen it all before. We are not talking beheadings here (of which there are aplenty); if you haven’t seen a child’s fingers floating in stew, you haven’t seen anything.

The central premise is roundabouts the same. Is Hellboy essentially good or bad? Who makes monsters? What gives humans the right to decide? But from giants who pummel to witches who slaughter, and eye-less old women who bend backwards to walk on all fours, there is not a single redeeming thing the film offers by way of them.

Taking over from Ron Perlman, who exited the franchise once he heard del Toro would not be a part of this third Hellboy film (and a reboot to boot), David Harbour of Stranger Things does a fine enough job as the brick-red man who emerged from the depths of hell with sawed horns on forehead, a tail and a metallic hammer-like appendage for an arm. The relationship between Hellboy and the government official hunting down such paranormal beings, whom he addresses as dad (McShane), is the film’s finest. There is petulance there, and resentment, love and understanding.

The film would have done well to focus on this, and how it evolved. But from the first scene, Hellboy is a fully formed, wisecracking and largely well-adjusted (remarkable for our times of ‘othering’, especially in films of this genre) killing machine. Could Hellboy be better served if a teenager played him, with all his angst of growing up and self-realisation? With apologies to Perlman, it’s a thought, especially given how Tom Holland breathed new life into Spider-Man.

Hellboy has two sidekicks, holding up the rear (Lane, Kim). Efficient as they are in their own right, it’s difficult to take them seriously given their back stories. Alice, played by Lane, for example, is a psychic whose powers don’t come too handy except to communicate with the spirits of the just-departed, who emerge out of her mouth in flesh-and-bones mermaid forms. She also has a ‘psychic migraine’. Given the semi-joking tone of the film, which resorts to it and some peppy music every time things get too serious, you think she is joking. Till you realise, she isn’t.

As it flits all the way from the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur (where Jovovich does her thing) to Alice in Wonderland, that’s about sums up Hellboy.

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