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Hellboy
2004 - PG-13 - 121 Mins.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Producer: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson
Written By: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Rupert Evans, Jeffrey Tambor, and Karel Roden
Review by: JK Radtke
   

Hold on. All this ass kickin' has left me winded. I need a smoke.
Ron Perlman is a true Hollywood oddity. The poster boy for actors considered a “triple threat”, not only does Ron have one of the most unique looks in the history of the industry (he‘s got a monkey face - yeah, I said it), and acting chops that could stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Hollywood’s elite, and never back down, but he’s also got that “it factor” that millions of wannabe actors--both known and unknown alike--would gladly sell their soul for without so much as a second thought.

It is the latter that has garnered Ron something of a cult following of the years. Compiling a filmography that reads like road kill with gigs ranging from big studio blockbusters: ALIEN: RESURRECTION , ENEMY AT THE GATES, and BLADE II; to straight-to-cable flicks: ABSOLON, SHAKEDOWN, and OPERATION SANDMAN; to pure, largely undiscovered gold: HAPPY, TEXAS, THE LAST SUPPER, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, he’s proven that not only can he play a heavy, but that he’s mastered the underrated art of comedic timing as well. Plus, he doesn’t take himself too seriously in anything he does, creating something of a whimsical aura around every performance which is never out of place or over bearing, making him almost infallible as an actor.

In HELLBOY, Perlman is within his elements playing the title character: a cartoonish looking demon, raised by humans, and with one hell of an attitude problem. Now the focal point of a secret branch of the Government created solely for defending the United States from the paranormal, we are given a slight peak into the life of Hellboy through a montage of fuzzy photographs and television clips, before being thrust face first into the present day.

Heading up this secret branch is Professor Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm (John Hurt): Father figure and mentor for Hellboy; and, Dr. Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor): snooty spin doctor responsible for setting up missions while publicly denying its (and Hellboy's) existence. Along for the ride are a giant, psychic fish man named Abe Sapien (played by Doug Jones and voiced by David Hyde Pierce), a fire starter and the object of Hellboy's affection, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and a new guy fresh off a tour with the FBI, John Myers (Rupert Evans). Together, they kick ass MIB style, as the evil Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) conjures up all sorts of nastiness in the hopes of unleashing hell on Earth.

Don't believe for one second that this film takes place in this world. While the idea of the film is that it is set in the present day, it is obvious to this reviewer that it is all happening in some alternate dimension. One that Jerry O'Connell might accidentally fall into through a big blue vortex.

Okay, so I only said that so I could work a "Sliders" reference into this review. Sue me. I liked that show.

Anyway, the evil Rasputin is back, again, hoping to finally bridge the gap between the underworld and our own. With the aid of some hydra like frog-dogs called Sammael, a blonde Nazi hottie named Ilsa (Bridget "Biddy" Hodson), and fluid assassin that puts all Jedi to shame named Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), it is his goal to ultimately ruin the world while helping Hellboy fulfill his destiny.

Normally, this is where I would break the film down for you, so that you may better understand the plot and stuff. Well, I'm not going to do that this time, because honestly, I believe HELLBOY is the sort of movie that needs to be seen to be believed.

In my opinion, HELLBOY is the perfect example of what a live action comic book should look like. While films like SPIDER-MAN, BLADE, and HULK spent time delving deep into the inner struggles of the title characters, Guillermo Del Toro (writer and director) wastes little time on that stuff. Instead of making it a primary focus for much of the movie, he allows that information to be passed on through the actors as the story unfolds. This is most appreciated. While the second half of Ang Lee's HULK is nothing short of a masterpiece, the first hour is so dull and flat, it's a wonder how anyone of us who've seen the film, actually knows how it ends.

Instead, Guillermo puts the focus on the characters themselves. And, thanks to the skill and talent brought to the table from every cast member, his plan is executed flawlessly.

It is this balance of the right amount special effects with the right amount of interpersonal relationships in this film that makes it easy for one to care about the characters on screen. While the villains are somewhat underdeveloped (I would have loved to see more of Roden's Rasputin on screen), let's not kid ourselves...the main reason for seeing this movie is to watch this big red creature kick ass, take names, and do it all with an adolescent mindset.

The makeup job on Perlman in this movie is fantastic. Usually, when actors are buried under a mountain of makeup and prosthetics, their features are no longer recognizable to the point that expression and emotion are nonexistent. No so with Hellboy. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to Perlman's naturally unnatural look, but in watching him on screen, it's mind blowing to see just how much emotion and expression was left on his face, despite the costume. While I've heard many make note of the "makeuped" Hellboy, instead believing a CGI version would be better, I think the route they took for this film was spot on. If they were to have gone with a CGI version, you would have had to sacrifice Perlman's whole acting job, which elevates this movie from being an average action flick, to one of the best I've ever seen.

One final note: While researching for this review, I noticed something I thought was interesting. For many of these actors, it is not the first time they’ve worked together. Ron Perlman and Karel Roden both appeared together in BLADE II, directed by none other than Guillermo del Toro. And the history between Guillermo and Perlman goes back even further than that, to 1993’s CRONOS (Guillermo’s break out film). Ron Perlman and John Hurt also appeared together in 2002’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Perhaps it was these established connections that helped fuel the already existing chemistry within the film and the characters? Perhaps not. Either way, HELLBOY is a film definitely worth your dime.

Now, I’m going to go sit on my hands and wait for the sequel.

 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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