Neil Marshall‘s Hellboy—unrelated to the previous two live-action movies directed by Guillermo del Toro—delivered everything I wanted from it and more in its first couple of scenes. It opens with a gorgeous black-white-and-red historical section which sees an evil witch (Milla Jovovich) beheaded and her body further partitioned by none other than King Arthur, screaming even after the decapitation. It then moves to present day, at which point the eponymous demon Hellboy (David Harbour) has a wrestling match with a luchador down in Tijuana.
It had all the makings of a terrible but incredible B-grade action movie, the likes of which we don’t get in theaters very often anymore thanks to things like “standards.” But as it went on and we got into the throes, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the case. Outside of a couple of pretty solid action scenes and some funny one-liners from Hellboy himself, the movie became less and less entertaining as it progressed. It’s unfortunate, but it turned out that the “B” in B-movie stood for “bland.”
The movie jumps around quite a bit but primarily follows Hellboy and co.—more on that in a second—as they try to thwart evil in England. The aforementioned evil witch is being reassembled and he has to stop that from happening. Or does he? After all, most of the humans he runs across seem less than pleased that he even exists, so perhaps a society run by an evil witch might be better for an evil-looking (and perhaps evil-evil) monster like him? The film ponders this for a second before deciding it’s not worth exploring.
As for the “co.” I just mentioned, midway through the film, after one of three secret societies turns heel on us, Hellboy is given two teammates—a psychic girl (Sasha Lane) whom he saved as a baby but hasn’t seen in two decades, and a soldier (Daniel Dae Kim) who is harboring a dark secret and may but may also not want to kill him; we’ll see how he’s feeling in the moment of truth. They each get a scene explaining their back story but apart from that aren’t really characters. Neither is Hellboy, but at least he gets a few scenes where they try to make him one.
The two highlights are a couple of the action scenes and the film’s sense of humor. There’s a cool fight against a trio of giants that is largely filmed in faux-one-take—meaning it’s been edited to look like it’s one take, even though it’s not. That same technique is employed right before the credits roll, too, and it’s equally effective. Hellboy is also sarcastic and deadpan, which leads to several funny moments. And while much of the CGI in the film isn’t especially great – the lowish budget shines through most in this aspect – the prosthetics to turn David Harbour into the titular character look great.
If you’re looking for a quality Hellboy film, you’re better off watching the previous two live-action movies. If you’re looking for a sillier, more violent, but also not terribly good one, then I guess you’ve come to the right place. 2019’s Hellboy delivers everything one could hope in its opening couple of scenes and then drags on for another couple of hours, growing more and more wearisome as it goes on. It has a couple of good action scenes and some decent humor, but for the most part this B-movie is bland.
Conclusion: Hellboy has a couple of positive attributes but pales in comparison to its protagonist’s previous iterations.
Recommendation: Superfans will want to watch Hellboy regardless of quality just to see what’s happened, but anyone who isn’t a fan should probably stay clear.