By Chic DiCiccio
Before the movie’s title even appears on screen, “Hellboy” treats you to an insane yarn in which King Arthur beheads an evil witch then has sections of her body hidden in lockboxes all over England. It’s narrated by Ian McShane, who peppers this “history” lesson with colorful language as only he can. McShane’s flowery delivery more than likely will distract you from wondering exactly what the hell you are seeing.
It doesn’t get any better from there. This inexplicable “Hellboy” reboot wants to combine the devil may care attitude of “Deadpool” and the grit of “Logan,” but instead fails at pretty much everything. The Andrew Cosby script is boring, hard to follow and loaded with brutally bad action movie dialogue, and director Neil Marshall tries to cover it all up with as much blood, brains and guts that is permitted with an R-rating.
The good news is that “Hellboy” jumps right in and skips the origin story. It even starts out with some promise as Hellboy (David Harbour) initially finds himself in a wrestling ring with a luchador in Tijuana. It’s fun, dark and initially shows why Harbour was a great choice to play the character.
The first hour or so is extremely episodic and moves Hellboy to England, which is where the movie officially grinds to a halt.
Out of nowhere, we get a flashback to Hellboy’s first appearance on Earth and the instances on how he came under the care of Trevor Bruttenholm (McShane). It’s essentially a poorly made carbon copy of the far superior Guillermo del Toro-directed “Hellboy” and, well, it makes you want to watch that movie instead.
As Hellboy tries to track down Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), Marshall and Cosby clumsily introduce us to a few of his pals. Hellboy is saved from giants (yes, large ugly humanlike things) by Alice (Sasha Lane), a girl that he saved from fairy abduction (yes, tiny winged creatures) when she was an infant. Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) literally bursts onto the screen as the British version of Hellboy and his “secret” is of course only one to those who refuse to acknowledge blatant foreshadowing.
He gives it his all, but Harbour can’t elevate this truly terrible material to anything other than B-movie levels. He’s forced to deliver nothing but angry wisecracks and the dramatic moments are so contrived and predictable that there’s nothing Harbour can do to save them. It’s actually so poorly constructed that it’s difficult to tell if he’s been miscast or misled.
Now Milla Jovovich? Disastrous. It’s like watching someone think they are delivering Shakespearean prose when it’s actually sci-fi fantasy nonsense straight out of Dungeons and Dragons. Even McShane phones it in, which is particularly depressing.
The real turn-off happens in the final 30 minutes. It’s so gory and disgusting that it’s flat out hard to watch. The sickening aspect of it is that Marshall seems to revel in displaying how many ways he can show random people being mutilated. It’s about as repulsive as it can get, and this movie wants to play them for laughs.
There’s no doubt that “Hellboy” is only for the most hardcore fans of the comic book. It’s not compelling enough for the dark drama to connect and the irreverent humor never quite comes off. That’s a tough combination to get right and “Hellboy” never even comes close.