David Harbour takes over the role of Hellboy from Ron Perlman.
David Harbour takes over the role of Hellboy from Ron Perlman. Supplied

MOVIE REVIEW: Anti-hero returns in the reboot from hell

HELLBOY

Two and a half stars

Director Neil Marshall

Starring David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich

Rating R18+

Running time 121 minutes

Verdict It's a horror movie, all right, just not in the way the filmmakers intended

 

BIG, crude, emotionally insecure, Hellboy is a pretty ornery kind of superhero.

The whites of his eyes are so yellow, jaundice cannot be ruled out (especially given his taste for hard liquor.)

Although the half-man, half-demon shares Deadpool's extreme anti-social tendencies and questionable personal hygiene, he lacks his Marvel counterpart's keen, self-deprecating wit.

Hellboy's humour consists of bad puns such as "quit while you're a-head" - a throwaway line to the witch he has just decapitated.

Daniel Dae Kim, David Harbour and Sasha Lane in a scene from Hellboy.
Daniel Dae Kim, David Harbour and Sasha Lane in a scene from Hellboy.

There's nothing particularly intelligent or well choreographed about the way Hellboy fights.

Brute force is his primary superpower, augmented by an uncanny ability to heal.

All of which goes some way to explaining why this overheated, undercooked reboot fails so abominably.

In this, his third big-screen outing, director Neil Marshall (The Descent) takes Hellboy back to his gory, graphic
novel roots.

Inspired by creator Mike Mignola's original vision, Marshall pushes the apocalyptic horror elements into R18+ territory.

We're talking plucked eyeballs, severed tongues and oozing viscera, filtered through a stylised comic book lens.

Hellboy's version of the child-eating Slavic witch Baba Yaga would give Francis Bacon nightmares.

And medieval sorceress Nimue (Milla Jovovich) meets a particularly grisly fate when her body is dismembered and scattered to the farthest reaches of England.

Milla Jovovich in a scene from the movie Hellboy.
Milla Jovovich in a scene from the movie Hellboy. Supplied

But perhaps the film's most arresting scene is Hellboy's incendiary vision, during which he rides a giant beast through a fiery underworld.

David Harbour's misbegotten anti-hero is rougher around the edges than the version created by Ron Perlman and Guillermo Del Toro for the first two films.

He's a conflicted, emotional adolescent in a dark and unforgiving world.

His adoptive father, Bureau For Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) founder Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane), takes tough love to a whole other dimension.

Hellboy's relationship with his motley bunch of demon-slaying offsiders is similarly underdeveloped.

Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), who was kidnapped by fairies as a baby, exhibits surprising supernatural abilities.

And disciplined B.P.R.D operative Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) is clearly hiding a secret, which is revealed towards the end of the film.

Hellboy is aiming to carve out a very particular niche for itself as hard-core, blood-splattered superhero horror, but Marshall's vision lacks cohesion.

Andrew Cosby's screenplay is a cobbled-together hotchpotch of myth, folklore, supernatural mumbo-jumbo and threadbare cliche - everyone from the Nazis to Harry Potter and King Arthur gets a look in here.

A B-grade, adults-only schlocker.

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