FILM REVIEW: Hellboy
Based on the graphic novel by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: David Harbour, Ian Mcshane, Milla Jovovich, Daniel Dae Kim
Runtime: 120 mins
Ratings: PG-13 & M-18
Review by Leon Lau
Note: This review is based off the PG-13 version of Hellboy. The M-18 version is available to watch at these Golden Village cinemas: Vivocity, Suntec, Plaza Singapura, Great World City, City Square and Katong.
Hellboy (2019)is a bizarre concoction of blood soaked gore and awkward humour, that sadly never comes together as a cohesive whole.
Say what you will about the first two Del Toro Hellboy films. They might be on the cheesy side but both had a strong sense of identity and stood out as visually spectacular creature features. The 2019 reboot on the other hand struggles to find its own identity, swaying wildly between comedy and horror and ends up struggling at both. It’s a damn shame because there are several bright spots here that hints at what could have been.
First off, David Harbour gives a solid performance as Hellboy. Yes, he is close to Ron Pearlman’s version in terms of the design, but Harbour manages to differentiate himself by delivering a much more animated performance as the titular character. His Hellboy is less level headed and often goes into hot tempered rants at the flip of a coin. The writing is spotty but Harbour’s committed performance and strong make up work makes him a fun character to watch.
The makeup artists here are easily the unsung heroes of the film. We get to see old ladies that can contort their bodies in unnerving angles and a surprisingly well animated pig through the combination of masks, makeup and CGI. Academy Award-winning makeup artist Joel Harlow worked on the creatures and the practical effects lend a horrifying realism to these grotesque designs. It’s a labour of love that shows, but unfortunately the same can’t be said for the writing.
There is just too much packed into this script. From sudden dumps of exposition to the rushed introductions of villains and mythology, nothing is given proper breathing room. The father-son dynamic between Hellboy and Professor Broom should have been the heart of the film, but because it’s so glossed over you never get a chance to become attached to these characters. The actors give it their all but the script often disappoints by teasing interesting themes instead of actually exploring them – which isn’t to say that the film is all bad.
Hellboy delivers some truly insane visuals that blows you away. From the blood soaked visions of the coming apocalypse to liberal amounts of gore, the film is unabashedly crude about pushing the R rating in blockbusters. If you like your violence messy, Hellboy is happy to deliver in generous amounts.
A word of advice though, there are two cuts of the Hellboy in Singapore. If you are old enough I strongly recommend catching the M-18 screening in Singapore instead of the PG-13 one. Much of the film revolves around gory action and the PG-13 version sucks the joy out of action sequences with jarring cuts that destroys the pacing.
In an age where comic book adaptations have come so far, Hellboy (2019) feels like a step back. An incoherent script and uneven pacing holds back what could have been a fun reboot. Thankfully, David Harbour’s enthusiastic performance and the fantastic creature designs gives hardcore fans of the graphic novel just enough reason to give this one a try.