by Greg Muskewitz
Guillermo del Toro’s second outing in the comic book realm seeks to go for a more obscure choice in material than the daywalker Blade.Hellboy (theme song: “Red Right Hand,” Nick Carter and the Bad Seeds), a demon conjured by the Nazis, but seized and trained for the good by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, is employed like a Ghostbuster or Man In Black, along with a prescient man-fish and a human torch, to battle your average variety of monsters and ghouls. But he becomes directly targeted by the evil Kroenen, the man who unleashed him during World War II, who in turn is under the instruction of Grigori Rasputin. Hellboy does a fair enough job of playing into the comic book genre rather than away from it (self-reflexive humor acknowledging his comic book; Hellboy sightings on news reports like the abominable snowman), while at the same time not turning him into a joke but rather as an every day, out-of-view, underhanded secret. And the aim to make him more of a person, less of a monster (through what else? familial love, romantic love) is achieved so much more convincingly than Ang Lee’s Hulk. (As real as Hellboy is made to be, whether through serious treatment or humor, Prague is absolutely no substitute for New York, the authenticity of which del Toro nailed in Mimic.) For its type of movie, the action is a bit underwhelming, though what sequences there are, del Toro dexterously blends live action and CGI to the right balance, relying more on what can be done on the set than afterwards with a computer. Ron Perlman as Hellboy is a frighteningly eerie match, well-developed as a character (despite the obscurity of the comic, it isn’t hindered in arcanum) and humorously portrayed. Again, in choosing a big budget, mainstream action film like Blade 2, del Toro still makes his stylistic mark with Hellboy, toying with notions of the supernatural and the inexplicable, cloaked in the darkness of both a hidden existence and the metaphorical caves in which the existence takes place. With John Hurt, Selma Blair, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Rupert Evans, and Doug Jones.[Worth-seeing.]
"The red right hand of heroics."
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originally posted: 04/18/04 20:59:17