© 2004 Ray Wong
Guillermo Del Toro (BLADE II, MIMIC) is possibly one of the most respected comics-turn-flick directors in the business today. His style has always been visually stunning yet dark in mood with a splash of self-effacing humor. HELLBOY is no exception. To fans of comic books that are familiar with the Dark Horse hero, HELLBOY is a welcome treat.
During WWII, the Nazis have enlisted the Russian mystic Rasputin to transport a deadly weapon from another dimension: Somehow Rasputin has discovered a portal to transport the gods of chaos to Earth. Meanwhile, an expert in paranormal phenomena, Professor Bruttenholm (Hurt, Contact), led a coalition troop in an operation to stop the madness. They succeed, only to find that something has crossed over -- a crimson infant with horns, a large stone arm, a tail, and a sweet tooth. Bruttenholm adopts the boy and appropriately calls him Hellboy.
Forty years later, the grown-up Hellboy (Perlman, LOONEY TUNES) is now part of the FBI’s secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Hellboy is a loose canon, tough on the outside (almost indestructibly tough) but soft on the inside, specifically having a repressed crush on Liz (Blair, A GUY THING), a fellow “freak” who would burst into hellish flame when provoked. Meanwhile, Bruttenholm is dying, and he finds a potential replacement in a meek FBI agent, John Myers (newcomer Evans). The team also include the telepathic Abe Sapien (voiced by Pierce), an aquatic creature that is half-man, half-fish. One day, Rasputin and his minions resurfaced and all hell break loose, literally. The good vs. evil adventures take off from there, complete with hellish monsters and deadly consequences. And that’s just barely scratching the surface.
Del Toro has a unique visual style, and the action sequences are quite exciting, though claustrophobic. HELLBOY does have a funny side, most notably Perlman’s one-liners and his feud with comic relief Dr. Manning (Tambor, EUROTRIP). I suspect that nobody can play Hellboy better than Perlman, a hulking, bald stab of testosterone. Blair is skillful as the sweet but sultry Liz. Evans is likeable, yet a little too green for a major role as agent Myers. Hurt is the standout here, portraying Bruttenholm with wit, sensitivity and dignity. The problem with HELLBOY is not the cast, however, or the production value. The script is so convoluted with so many major and minor characters and subplots that one needs to exert great mental energy just to keep track. Thankfully, the love triangle subplot is a humorous and refreshing diversion from the non-stop action. Though the special effects are decent and the product value high, nothing is new here. One can’t help but notice the influence from other films: X-MEN, BATMAN, ALIENS, MIMIC, MATRIX, to name a few. Unless you’re familiar with the comics, you are likely to leave the theater in a state of confusion: What are the gods of chaos? Where do they come from? Why? Who? And How? To the die-hard fans of the comics or an action-packed machismo, though, HELLBOY is a hell of a ride.
Stars: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Rupert Evans, John Hurt, David Hyde Pierce
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Writers: Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Briggs
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence
Script – 4
Performance – 6
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 8
Total – 6 out of 10