|Rating:RATED PG-13 for Violence
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor
Directed By: Guillermo Del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy is a far better film than I ever expected it to be. I’d read all the prerelease interviews and features that discussed how much this film was a “labor of love” for the director, but I never expected what ended up on screen. That love paid off big time, and resulted in what is easily the best comic hero film since Spider-Man.
For those who, like I was, are unfamiliar with Hellboy, it’s the story of The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, and their best employee, a demon from the other side who’s been raised by men as a weapon against evil. As our elder professor states – “There are things that go bump in the night, and we are the ones who bump back.”
For Hellboy, that bumping mostly occurs by his crushing right hand (accompanied nicely by “Red Right Hand”, a truly fitting song), though he’s also armed with a revolver that can be filled with all sorts of goodies, like garlic filled bullets. He’s technically not alone in his work, with help from the amphibious Abe Sapien and the young, human, Agent Myers, but he does manage to do most of the work himself; when he’s not trying to woo the lovely Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), who’s a “hottie” in a different sense than we’re used to.
Of course, evil never sleeps, so Hellboy’s instantly in the middle of a conflict. The evil Gregori Rasputin, along with his henchman Kroenen, is of course planning to destroy the world, with a lot of help from a demon known as the “hound of resurrection.” Hellboy can kill the hound, but it comes back two-fold each time. For anyone that knows anything about math, that’s called a problem. Luckily Hellboy’s got more tricks up his sleeve than a used car salesman.
What this story leads to as a film is a gloriously vivid film, full of bright colors and excellent darkness, oozing Del Toro’s style in every scene. From the darkness of underground tunnels to the bright red of Hellboy or the blue of Sapien, the film is as beautifully styled as an action film can be. Del Toro shows with this, and his excellent script, which features a lot of great one-liners, that he is the real deal in Hollywood. God willing, much more from him will be coming soon.
The action, too, is perfect. The henchman Kroenen, from the first scene, becomes one of the most perfectly realized characters in the superhero genre. Reminiscent in his carnage of the Ninja from Metal Gear Solid, he’s the slicer and dicer we’ve been waiting on for years, and could destroy any of his counterparts in Tarantino’s Kill Bill while drinking a coffee with one hand. The scenes with Hellboy are excellent too, and the CGI is never a hindrance to this action.
Of course, this film could not have functioned without Ron Perlman as Hellboy. Del Toro’s is said to have had a “I’ll do this film with Ron Perlman, or I won’t do this film” attitude when the idea was first being thrown around, and it’s easy to see why. The character actor proves to be as bad as necessary, handling a lot of scenes and a lot of makeup perfectly. The rest of the cast is perfectly placed as well, with Selma Blair’s Liz, Rupert Evans’ Agent Myers, and John Hurt’s Professor all excellently cast. Karel “The poor man’s Gary Oldman look-alike” Roden is adequate in his few scenes as Rasputin, but the other villains and monsters steal most of his thunder with their coolness. Jeffrey Tambor, who’s been hot as of late thanks to his TV show “Arrested Development”, adds some good humor in a side role as well, including a post credits scene worth waiting for.
In the end, Hellboy falls short of nothing. The ending has gotten some criticism for being anti-climactic and/or leaving some things out, but I found it to be in perfect spirit with the comic book nature of the story, and am sure that it’ll lead in perfectly to a sequel. When they do make this sequel, as long as Del Toro and Perlman are on board, I’ll be there with bells on, because these two knew what they were doing here, and have created a comic book film that transcends its genre and becomes a fun tale of good and evil for all to enjoy. Bravo to all involved.