03 August 2004

Hellboy - Movie Review

According to Hellboy, those Nazis weren't all about mass ethnic genocide. Nope, what they were really interested in was opening the portal to Hell so that Earth too could become a fiery, desolate pit of despair, or as they called it "Eden." Led by the kooky Russian prince of mischief and mayhem, Rasputin, the German evil doers, through the power of 40 watt light bulbs and the unintelligble ramblings of a bald man, bring into the world an infant demon from hell, who, with the exception of the fat bunnies in Land of the Lepus, is possibly the scariest creature I have ever seen in my life. Fortunately for the sake of humankind, a ragtag group of American soldiers, led by a purhearted "professor of paranormal research", Dr. Broom manage to foil their Nazi shenanigans. Fast forward sixty years later, Dr. Broom and a group of secret government agents have raised the title character into a demon-fighting machine who loves kittens, pyros, and long walks through the subway. However, Hellboy soon finds himself in quite a pickle, when the evil Germans and Russian dude find the troubled anti-hero and force him to choose between -- dun dun DUN! -- good and evil. Will Hellboy choose the dark side and destroy humankind? Will Hellboy get the girl? Will Hellboy ever change his name to Hellman?

I really wanted to like this movie. Ron Perlman is quite lovable as Hellboy. You can't help but sympathize with this misunderstood hero and his sardonic delivery of dialogue. Paralleling the plight of Hellboy, it sometimes feels like its up to Ron Perlman to carry the whole movie. Surrounded by a supporting cast of one dimensional characters, Perlman is fantastic at inspiring a confidence in Hellboy's superhero abilities, while maintaining a sense of vulnerability that actually has you pulling for the unlikely romance (don't want to see what kind of kid they'd produce) between the horned, red beast and the woe-begotten, fragile, "pyrokenetic" chick, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair).

The other characters are quite forgettable. Selma Blair is good at playing mopey and depressed, but that note gets old pretty quick. Rupert Evans is cute, but not all that likeable as the supposedly "purhearted" government agent, John Myers meant to help Hellboy keep on the good side. For example, merely moments after telling Liz that Hellboy loves her, he uses the old yawn trick to make a move on Hellboy's love interest. That was so not pure-hearted. In fact, as Hellboy's supposed mentor, and pseudo side kick, Myers is not all that helpful. The only thing he seems to be good at is handling props, like handing Hellboy his dinner, handing Hellboy a rosary necklace, or handing Hellboy a belt of explosives. I didn't even like Jeffrey Tambor's character, a condescending FBI big shot who refuses to give Hellboy props for routinely saving the world. There's a shoddy attempt at the end of the movie to redeem Tambor's character, suggesting that he's a good guy after all, but it's just to late. Ten minutes of good guyness cannot make up for 112 minutes of a-hole. The only other character I did like was Abe Sapien, played by Doug Jones. Abe is a telepathic mer-man who can read a person's past, present, and future, but can't read a book on his own. Annoyingly, Abe seems to posses the power to know the answer to everying, but virtually disappears from the movie after he gets mauled by a few fertile demon alien things. With his Fraiser Crane style of acting, Jones does a decent job of portraying a likeable and comical supporting character who with the exception of the cute code names "Blue" and "Red" is rather unecessary. I also enjoyed the performance of a Russian corspse.

The plot's not all that remarkable, but I think Ron Perlman's portrayl of Hellboy makes the movie worth seeing on a rainy deal. It's probably most enjoyable when seen with a bunch of friends, so that you can make fun of its absurdities and inconsitencies.

My recommendation: Rent it. Don't buy it.

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