Hellboy (2019) Review

High Octane!


Hellboy is not without its flaws but there is no shortage of badass action scenes and R rated violence with David Harbour giving a memorable performance as the conflicted half demon.

Plot: Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.

Review: When I first heard we were getting a reboot of Hellboy without Ron Perlman or Guillermo del Toro, I (like everyone else) wondered why. However, as production began on this new film it sounded more and more intriguing. First of all we were told that it wasn’t going to be an all new origin but referencing The Wild Hunt storyline from the comics and that it would be rated R. Then Stranger Things star David Harbour signed on as the brooding anti-hero and my interest was piqued. Harbour is one of my favourite actors working today as he brings a real everyman quality to characters but can also portray man’s darker nature with ease which makes him perfectly cast as Hellboy.

I still haven’t decided if I prefer Harbour to Perlman in the role but that will take several more viewings before I can decide.

Harbour gives a new voice to the half demon/half human private investigator that works with the B.P.R.D. (The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) to help take down other demons.

In this movie Hellboy is having a bit of an identity crisis as he wonders if he is really on the right side as he is essentially killing his own kind; when Nimue/The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) is brought back from the dead she uses Hellboy’s doubts against him to try and get him to join her.

Jovovich is clearly relishing playing a villain and chews the scenery and at various points I was hoping Hellboy would join her as she made a convincing argument. I do think she didn’t get that much to do as she is more in the background but that is also the case in the comics. Hellboy’s true adversary in this movie is really himself as he battles his inner demons trying to come to terms with who he is and what his destiny should be.

I have to be honest and say I never really “got” Hellboy when the Del Toro films came out as it was all very bizarre and rather silly but once you disengage that part of your brain and allow suspension of disbelief to take over then you can just enjoy the ride. I’ve read several Hellboy comics since to get more familiar with the lore including The Wild Hunt and I have to put my hand up and say this is arguably the most comic accurate Hellboy adaptation to date. There are some visuals which look like they have jumped right off the page but even if you’ve read the comics the filmmakers have added a few extra twists to keep things interesting.

There are also far more practical effects than the trailers would have you believe with no shortage of blood and gore. This Hellboy truly embraces its R rating with some graphic scenes of violence and imaginative kills; it’s never particularly disturbing as you’re always aware that this is very much a fantasy feature. There is wall to wall action with Big Red taking on all manner of monsters including the hideous Gruagach. He has a very broad English accent that some international viewers may struggle to comprehend.

I also wasn’t convinced by Daniel Dae Kim who didn’t really sound authentically English but it wasn’t too distracting. Ian McShane is as magnificent as always and no matter what the movie he always adds class.

The script could have maybe been a little sharper as there were a few one-liners that didn’t land well but I also found that like with so many other movies today too much focus is on the background noise so you struggle to hear some of the dialogue.

Hellboy is one of the most unique pictures of the year and I guarantee you’ll not see anything else like it as it has a visual style all of its own. Director Neil Marshall has brought a new vision to this world so it looks different from the del Toro movies but is every bit as imaginative. There are some truly monstrous looking creatures and despite being an action movie there are also horror elements with scary and nightmarish moments.

The music goes for a heavy metal vibe with an electric guitar infused score and some classic rock tunes to boot including Beat the Devil’s Tattoo by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club which was used in Dead in Tombstone.

It will be interesting to see the box office for this movie as the R rating will prevent younger viewers coming to see it and a movie about monsters fighting should usually be catering to kids so it was a bold choice. I hope it is a success though as I always love more R rated fare so it paves the way for more adult orientated movies.

Overall, Hellboy is a wild ride and certainly won’t be for everyone; I see it destined to become more of a cult classic in waiting but Harbour is magnetic as our hero with a supporting cast who embrace the silliness with a straight face which is why it works so well.