REVIEW: ‘Hellboy’ isn’t saved by R-rated spectacle

I never saw the first two “Hellboy” films by Oscar winning Director Guillermo del Toro as perfect masterpieces, but they are light years ahead of this.

A reboot rather than a sequel to the last “Hellboy” in 2008, this picture follows the titular character who works for a special agency defending humanity from paranormal threats. Hellboy, who was summoned to Earth during World War II, is an agent for the organization and his latest case takes him to England.

There, he learns of a sorceress (Milla Jovovich) who had threatened the world generations ago and plans to do so again. While Hellboy is initially ready to fight her, though, he has second thoughts because of how humans have outright attacked paranormal creatures throughout their history.

One can get a sense of how much of a mess this movie is going to be from the opening scene. Right from the start, the audience is met with a narrator who likes to throw in modern slang and F-bombs when telling an ancient tale. Additionally, there are edits, again in the opening scene, where there are zoom ins and movements by the characters where the film speeds up and then slows down. Mind you this isn’t done during an action scene, a la “300.” It’s just with characters standing.

The former aspect just described basically lasts throughout the entire movie. Unlike the del Toro movies, this “Hellboy” is rated R. Just because it’s rated R, though, doesn’t make this any more mature. In the end, the R rating gives them the liberty to swear a ton and show a lot of blood and gore.

In theory, that’s not a bad thing to do for your adaptation of a witty hell spawn that fights monsters, but the rest of the movie has to work, too. Not so much the case here.

First and foremost, the movie comes in at a full two hours when it certainly didn’t need to be that long. This is apparent because there are a few sequences inserted that just feel like padding the runtime.

One prime example are a few scenes stitched together where Hellboy has to fight some giants in the British countryside. Aside from one poor expositional moment where Hellboy learns about his past, this segment largely goes nowhere.

By the last 20 minutes of “Hellboy,” it felt like it was time to leave, and the movie just kept going.

The pacing is also wildly off. An example of this is just how late the movie decides to insert two seemingly important characters. The characters are the spirit medium Alice (Sasha Lane) and a fellow paranormal protection agent, Ben (Daniel Dae Kim). They aren’t introduced until an hour into the picture. As a result, any relationship building and camaraderie development is rushed because it’s all stuffed into basically the third act.

“Hellboy” isn’t exactly helped in the cast department, either. David Harbour seemed to be trying with the role at least, but the character was handled poorly. A majority of Harbour’s screentime is just him making quips and jokes about what’s happening on screen. Harbour is OK here with comedic timing, but when it comes time for the actual story-driven moments digging into who Hellboy is and how he relates to the paranormal world, his performance basically boils down to yelling about the situation without much nuance.

The supporting cast is rather forgettable, too. Dae Kim seems to be phoning it in for the most part and Jovovich seems to be there just to chew scenery and portray the most generic of villains.

The action isn’t much to write home about, either. There are a few moments bringing some entertainment value to the screen, but so much of the violence that earned this movie its coveted “R” rating is computer generated and doesn’t look all too good.

While it has an R rating, this latest “Hellboy” feels like it was written for a PG-13 audience more than its predecessors. The characters are shallow, the performances are flat, the dialogue is cringe-worthy and the action is just OK for the most part. Maybe one could enjoy this with an ironic watch just to see how schlocky it gets, but that’s about it. 1.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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