He's a super-strong comic book character who battles evil. But Hellboy is no superhero, and this is no ordinary comic book movie.
Created by Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a musclebound scarlet-skinned demon who hunts mythical monsters on behalf of a shadowy paramilitary organization, with the help of humans scarred by the paranormal. It's like the X-Files, if Mulder and Scully were a demon biker and a special forces werewolf.
If that sounds wacky, buckle up sister, because you ain't seen nothing yet. Before you've barely settled in your seat for this new 2019 version of Hellboy, opening worldwide this week, a wisecracking demon has wrestled a luchador vampire bat, a sorceress has been beheaded by King Arthur and a pulp superhero has machine-gunned his way through a cadre of Nazis and Rasputin. There's a secret society that dons stag heads to hunt giants, a Liverpool-accented pig monster who goes around pulling monks' tongues out and more witches than you can shake a broomstick at.
It's absolutely deranged nonsense. And it's great.
The over-the-top action and blood-spattered creature carnage is directed by Neil Marshall, best known for horror and action movies like The Descent and Doomsday -- not to mention orchestrating two major Game of Thrones battles.
Subtlety is not the man's strong point, and he's cranking this new version of Hellboy up to 11.
That's a pretty high bar for both Marshall and Harbour. But it's clear right from the opening frame of the new Hellboy movie -- in which a raven pecks out a corpse's eyeball -- that they're very different beasts. Del Toro's films had John Hurt as a kindly father figure; Marshall's movie has Ian McShane swearing. Del Toro crafted a baroque fairy tale version of the comics; Marshall marshalls an R-rated rock opera.
Playing the new Hellboy, David Harbour's performance also stacks up well against Perlman. A big part of Hellboy's charm is that under his invulnerable hide he hides a vulnerable heart, and Harbour transmits melancholy and anger through the layers of red makeup. Wisecracking at times and wounded at others, this huge red demon is surprisingly soulful, sympathetic and even charming.
McShane is as abrasive as ever, although the other performances are a little more wobbly. Daniel Dae Kim and Sasha Lane look the part even if their British accents don't hold up, while Milla Jovovich can't quite conjure the seething evil of the seductive Queen of Blood. Still, special mention goes to Stephen Graham. A whole new category of awards should be invented for his stellar work voicing a foul-mouthed Scouse pig-monster.
Sure, the CG is a bit ropey, the accents are all over the shop and the whole circus keeps grinding to a halt for another flashback. But then there's a scene where Hellboy beats up some angry giants while Muse thunders away on the soundtrack, or a house on giant chicken legs walks in so a Russian witch can strike a deadly bargain. What did I tell you? Delirious nonsense, and if you like that sort of thing, wildly fun.
This 2019 Hellboy is very different to previous versions, but it's a monstrously enjoyable creature feature nonetheless.
Originally published April 10.