Director: Guillermo del Toro
In 1944, Nazis teamed with a Russian Wizard named Rasputin (Rodin) try to open a portal to let the Seven Gods of Chaos into our world (guess what happens if they get in). Their plans are foiled by the allies, but a little demon tot manages to slips through the cracks and hit earth. The child is found and raised by good-hearted Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt).
In the present day, the now-affectionately named HellBoy (you can call him HB or Red) is all grown up, tough as nails, loving them pancakes and working for the FBI’s Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. But when pesky Rasputin and crew re-surface beyond the grave, still harping on their goal of plunging our world into darkness, HellBoy and his team go in “scum-beating” overdrive and aim to save the day.
"Oh Crap!"-- HellBoy
Spiderman, The Punisher, Strawberry Shortcake, Batman and the Powerpuff Girls, I know very well, but I had never heard of Mike Mignola’s comic book creation of HellBoy. That’s until King del Toro let the world know that he wanted to make a cinematic version of it. So I walked into this escapade not really knowing what to expect, but as I was going through the HellBoy ringer, I quickly picked up on the love that went into making the picture from all involved. It simply oozed out of the screen! That positive “joo-joo” was one of the many factors that came into play to make this flick quite the entertaining sit-down.
"HellBoy" swiftly hooked me in with its pulpy WW2 “Indiana Jones like” opening and kept me on the line the whole way. The two hours and twelve minutes running time felt like a buck and half to me! The film’s strongest suit were, first and foremost, its loveable “freakazoid” lead characters. Abe Sapien (Pierce and Jones) although underused was effective when around and Liz Sherman (Blair), a telekinetic human torch, had this gloomy allure and an inner struggle that I lapped up like a dog with a truckload of “Kibbles”. And the relationships the characters all shared (the love story and the father/son thing being the more efficient ones), although not dwelled upon enough for my liking, gave me enough humanity to hold on to during this big roller coaster ride of monsters and relentless pow-wow. Actually, the scene where HellBoy follows his beloved as she’s going on a date with another dude is my favorite scene of the whole film. Yes, I’m that guy!
Of course, I can’t go on with this review without mentioning the highlight of the show, the shining star, yes...I’m talking about the titular character of HellBoy himself who was perfectly interpreted by a remarkable Ron Perlman. Not since TV’s "Beauty and the Beast" have I connected to a Perlman role this much. In my opinion, he WAS the glue that held the movie together! The reddish tanned, cigar-chomping big handed lug was one charismatic bundle of contrasts and his persona was endearingly akin to a teenager going through his angst. He came across as the type of demon I’d hang out with on my days off. Perlman’s unyielding display was also the main catalyst for the film’s charismatic sense of humor. He delivered his biting one-liners like a champ and milked the circumstantial funny bits to a T. Yes, I was having a “Buck likes to fuck” blast every time HellBoy owned the screen!
Visually, this party was also quite the delight. I was bowled over more than once by the "out there" set designs and the wild imagination behind them. The same can be said about the arresting imagery on display at times (those Lovecraft-ian demons from space kicked my butt) and the stellar special effects backing them up. Although the digital trickery was, at times, apparent (I think it will always be no matter how much money is tossed into it), it was obviously really worked on. The CGI was top notch CGI. And I must prop Del Toro for taking the practical effect route on many occasions. I’d often spot the practical effects and would mumble under my breath, “Good shite, del Toro...that’s what I want to see buddy”. In the hands of a lazier fanboy, all of the effects could’ve been communicated via CGI. Thank Beelzebub that didn’t happen!
The last spices in this hell-stew were the multitude of electrifying rough and tumble fights and gunplay. ACTION BABY! WE GET LOTS OF IT! Actually, dare I say there was, perhaps....too much action? It became a bit redundant at times (I said "at times"-- I was still having a fun with it so get off my back, monkey) and it took time away from more possible character development. Having said that, you can’t go wrong watching the red BBQ muscled one wrestle all kinds of hell’s lapdogs (named Sammael) through various extravagant, inventive and highly amusing scenarios. I was jumping in my seat like a hemorrhoid case sitting on a hot piece of charcoal during the many fisticuffs found in the movie. They were classic comic book style...classic del Toro!
So what’s the problem with this spawn of hell? Well, in my opinion, the Jeff Tambor role should have been better written or nixed out. The part was clichéd and didn’t bring much to the story. NOTE: I love Tambor though! GREAT MAN! But the weakest links of all were the main bad guys and their craptastic goals. I must admit that I’m not too fond of “mumbo jumbo” in movies, I just don’t have the sensibility for it-- I like my shit simple and straight forward (much like my women). Here, the villains babbled too much about otherworldly crap to the point of turning me off. The same can be said about their “déjà vu to death” motive of destroying the world…yawn…"been there, done that" too many times. Come on baddies, let’s get creative! Why destroy the world when you can own it and the Playboy Mansion within it! Think godammit…THINK!
The villains themselves were also actually quite bland. With the exception of ULTIMATE BADASS Kroenen, an undead Nazi warrior with mucho skills with twin blades, I can’t say that I was too taken by Rasputin (Rodin) or his "blah" dame Ilsa (Holson). My last beef had to do with the trivial and underwhelming finale which matched the ZZZzzz motive in terms of predictability (for this genre) and lapses in logic. It felt liked they ran out of imagination for the last 15 minutes or something.
Overall though, the end credits rolled and I was one happy jack-off, with an arrow in his head and the fire of hell in his eyes. "HellBoy" was a rousing adventure with a lead hero that I’d follow anywhere, especially if it's to the local Pub for some pints. LET’S BUMP BACK! HERE’S TO HELLBOY!
We get nasty creatures, lots of slashing, light blood splashes, one used-up German Zombie with his eyelids cut off and more! Although the flick was violent, it wasn’t too graphic. More blood during the action bits (especially when Kroenen was slashing away at people’s legs) would’ve been nice. Yep, it’s PG 13 land…”BUGH!” I do raise my glass to: Rick Baker for his jaw-dropping HellBoy makeup - Spectral Motion for the Hellhounds and their other creations - Tippett Studios and The Orphanage for their “fuck yeah” CGI! Good work gents!
I can’t imagine anybody but Ron Perlman (Hellboy) playing HellBoy. Talk about PERFECT casting! Perlman put out an endearing, funny show while managing to emote beyond the makeup. He also spit out those sly one liners with class and Grade-A timing. Perlman was THE MAN! Selma Blair (Liz) had a stillness about her that hypnotized me every time she was on-screen. Rupert Evans (John) was very credible as the new kid on the block who was hanging tough in his new assignment. Jeffrey Tambor (Manning) plays an a-hole for a living...and what a great a-hole he is! Although I didn’t care for the character, Tambor still shined like the Ruby that he is! David Hyde Pierce and Doug Jones nailed it as the respective voice and body of the effeminate amphibian Abe Sapien. I bought it! Karel Rodin (Rasputin) did what he had to do...too bad his part was very “whatever”. Biddy Olson (Ilsa) bored me. Not her fault, her written role was a snooze.
T & A
The ladies get a buffed up Hellboy showing off his BBQ red pectorals and we get Selma and her heart-shaped ass in tight pants! YEEHAW!
Although not as flashy as “Blade 2”, del Toro directed with a firm hand, with the action sequences, in particular, really standing out in terms of composition and flair. I must also give him props for serving up a couple of truly gorgeous tableaux: one featuring Hellboy and snow falling on him and the other being the beyond-gripping sight of giant tentacles coming out of the clouds. WOW! Del Toro does it again!
While watching "HellBoy", I kept saying to myself, “The score sounds a lot like the “Crow: Salvation” music at times (a soundtrack that I own and cherish). Sure enough, Marco Beltrami composed for both films and, once more, delivered the fully garnished pizza here. We get also get a couple of rock songs.
All in all, "HellBoy" was more than worth my while via its loveable lead characters (HellBoy owned), cute love story, that tugged at my “Ahhhh” strings, boatload of action, that gave an eyeful and impressive special effects, that cranked my kazoo. Sure, the storyline that acted as a backbone to the whole affair was weak in places, the main villains were too plain and the ending was a tad underwhelming, but overall I laughed a lot, I wowed a lot, I wiggled in my seat a lot and I left the theatre with a carved-in grin on my smug mug. Some days that’s all you need out of a movie! And today was one of those days! Thanks Guillermo...keep 'em coming! If HellBoy Part 2 is ever born...I’ll welcome the little tyke with open arms!
The budget of this film was $60 Million and it was shot in Prague (the same place Guillermo del Toro shot "Blade 2").
The film's script was based on the "Seed of Destruction" trade paperback and its sequels.
Guillermo del Toro did the voices (more like sounds) for Baby Hellboy, Kroenen and Samuel.