Hellboy (2019) Review

For years, many fans have been clamouring for the elusive second sequel of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy III. But it never came close to greenlit the project due to everything from del Toro’s then-busy schedule to the simple fact that his last Hellboy movie — Hellboy II: The Golden Army back in 2008 — didn’t exactly set the box-office on fire. After over a decade of false hopes and seemingly endless delays a.k.a. development hell, we finally have to settle with a Hellboy reboot. Frankly, I wasn’t that pleased when I heard the movie is getting a remake treatment instead of continuing del Toro’s franchise.

But like it or not, here we are: in this reboot, Hellboy (David Harbour) teams up with Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim, a role originally intended for Ed Skrein but chose to quit due to whitewashing criticism since the character is supposed to be a Japanese-American) to stop a vengeful ancient sorceress Nimue a.k.a. The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich).

Unlike the previous two del Toro-directed Hellboy movies, Neil Marshall’s take on Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comic book series of the same name is gleefully violent with a capital “V”. The kind that pushes the boundaries of R-rating (or “18” in our film classifications system) with lots of excessive blood and gore. It’s like watching torture porn or grindhouse cinema of a comic-book movie directed by Eli Roth of Cabin Fever and Hostel fame. It may prove too much for some viewers but at least Marshall does a good job executing the gory set-pieces, even with all the overreliance of CGI.

The action sequences are equally well-staged with enough vigour, notably the particular setpiece involving an injured Hellboy battling against the three giant creatures. Another highlight is the elaborate creature effects, particularly the comic-accurate Hellboy himself, which is meticulously created using an impressive combination of heavy makeup and prosthetics.

The word “decent” is the best thing I can say about David Harbour’s performance as the titular character. While he does look the part as Hellboy, it’s kind of a pity that his character is largely superficial and the same can be said with the rest of them. The supporting actors including Sasha Lane’s Alice Monaghan, Daniel Dae Kim’s Ben Daimio and Ian McShane’s Professor Broom, who plays Hellboy’s “dad” are all adequate at best. But not for Milla Jovovich, whose main antagonist role as Nimue is nothing more than your generic villain looking to “destroy mankind and conquer the world”. Andrew Cosby’s screenplay, in the meantime, has its own worthwhile moments, even though some narrative threads tend to feel uneven or underdeveloped. The jokes along with the movie’s campy undertone are mostly a hit-and-miss affair.

And yet, what keeps the otherwise tonally inconsistent Hellboy reboot from falling apart is Marshall’s keen eyes for strong visual flair and an overall know-how direction that would largely appeal to genre fans. Remember not to leave your seats since there will be mid-credit and post-credit teasers.

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