April 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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There ARE things that go bump in the night...We're the ones who bump back. (mouse over for alternate  image)

Hellboy by Sony Pictures (Premier: 04/02/04)
Review by Drew Bittner

Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/hellboy/
IMDB Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167190/ 
Novelization by Yvonne Navarro
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Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Writing credits (WGA): Mike Mignola (comic books) / Guillermo del Toro 

Credited cast: Ron Perlman …. Hellboy / Selma Blair …. Liz / Sherman /Jeffrey Tambor …. Dr. Tom Manning / Karel Roden …. Grigori Rasputin / Rupert Evans …. John Myers / John Hurt …. Professor Bruttenholm / Corey Johnson …. Agent Clay / Doug Jones and David Hyde-Pierce (uncredited)…. Abraham 'Abe' Sapien / Brian Caspe …. Agent Lime / James Babson …. Agent Moss / more...

He rides from job to job in a garbage truck… when he isn’t under house arrest. He fights monsters for a living, using a giant handgun or an even more gigantic stone hand. Oh, and he was conjured up from Hell by the Nazis in the 1940s for reasons he never suspected. He’s Hellboy and he’s come to a theater near you.

Created by Mike Mignola in the pages of Dark Horse Comics’ Hellboy, director Guillermo del Toro (Blade II, Mimic) and actor Ron Perlman together bring the blue-collar, red-skinned Hellboy to vivid life. Filmgoers may debate, however, whether Hellboy is the best thing about this movie or simply one of the best.

There’s a lot to like here. Perlman is the consummate professional here, giving “Big Red” heart and existential angst on a par with his TV persona, Vincent (aka the Beast, from TV’s Beauty And The Beast). Whether it’s puffing on a cigar, rescuing kittens or just facing the horrific with grim resignation, this is the guy you want when things are at their worst. Perlman’s taking center stage in this role, tackling the part with rare gusto.

He gets plenty of strong support from the cast, with John Hurt as his adoptive father, Prof. Trevor Bruttenholm (aka Professor Broom), Selma Blair, his object of (hopeless?) desire, as the melancholy pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, and the team of Doug Jones and David Hyde-Pierce (uncredited) as the blue-skinned fishman Abe Sapien. They are a family of freaks and misfits, but as Abe points out, “We freaks are all that we have.”

Coming into this family is Agent John Myers (Rupert Evans), an FBI Academy graduate who’s being groomed for a very special purpose—even if serving pancakes to Hellboy isn’t what he had in mind by serving his country. Myers serves as the viewer’s entry into the strange world of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the WWII-era agency founded to protect the world from occult evil. Recovering Hellboy from the Nazis was one of their first successes; keeping Hellboy out of the public eye is one of their ongoing challenges (and a source of constant friction between Hellboy and Broom). Myers realizes that the BPRD plays for the very highest stakes… as events are set in motion that could lead to Armageddon.

It’s said that a hero is measured by his enemies. If true, Hellboy is one of the best, as his enemies not only include the stands-for-Evil Nazis, but Grigori Rasputin (Karel Rodin)—the Russian mystic who survived perhaps the most (and most diverse) assassination attempts ever. Rasputin knows what Hellboy can do… and his plans revolve around finishing what he started in the ‘40s.

Rasputin is helped by Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), Hitler’s half-mechanical and all-insectile killer, and Ilsa (Biddy Hodson), the classic Aryan ice princess. These two sometimes take a backseat, however, to Sammael, the CGI monstrosity that—like the Hydra—comes back twice as bad when it’s killed. Hellboy spends a good chunk of the movie battling Sammael, with Myers struggling to keep up…

…and he spends the rest pining for Liz, who’s found a life (of sorts) outside the BPRD. His anguish is familiar to anyone who’s suffered the pangs of teen romance. For all that he’s nearly 60, Hellboy is a big kid at heart—and he’s never more human than when he watches Myers and Liz sharing confidences on a park bench or when he learns the right way to light a cigar from the sublime Jeffrey Tambor.

Hellboy is one of the best comics-based movies to come along in quite awhile. Del Toro has the passion of a true comics fan and his atmosphere is deeply realized, with flourishes that will delight fans and intrigue neophytes. Word is that there’s a sequel in the works already. Here’s hoping it’s even half as good as this one. If the same crew is at the helm, fans have something great to look forward to.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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