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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Hellboy movie review: An unmitigated disaster, may it rot in hell. Half-a-star

Hellboy movie review: Director Neil Marshall and star David Harbour take over from Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman, only to deliver an utter catastrophe. Rating: 0.5/5.

hollywood Updated: Apr 17, 2019 16:35 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Hellboy movie review: David Harbour is buried underneath makeup and mediocrity.
Hellboy movie review: David Harbour is buried underneath makeup and mediocrity.
         

Hellboy
Director - Neil Marshall
Cast - David Harbour, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Milla Jovovich
Rating - 0.5/5 

They say that Saddam Hussein was made to watch the South Park movie in captivity, possibly as part of Dick Cheney’s famous advance interrogation techniques. In the future, when we’ve finally nabbed Al Baghdadi or whoever is terrorising the world at that particular moment, might I suggest Neil Marshall’s Hellboy instead?

To watch the film voluntarily is an experience so painfully unbearable that even the prospect of being eaten alive by a diseased giant (which is something that happens in the movie to a couple of guys) seems like sweet escape. It is a film that literally destroys a church, and that’s the least of its sins. Were it not out of some vague sense of responsibility, I would’ve walked out, an hour in.

Watch the Hellboy trailer here 

In that hour, Hellboy had already introduced multiple nonsensical plot lines - none of which are satisfactorily concluded, by the way - and it had loudly hopped from one corner of the world to another, announcing its movements with large cards. It had thrown, at a conservative estimate, at least three indistinguishable action scenes, and dumped a thick stack of confusing exposition on our heads.

And during all this confusion, it had completely forgotten to distinguish its star David Harbour from Ron Perlman’s beloved performance as the character. Perlman, who has played Hellboy twice, was offered to return for a third time, but he declined, choosing to stand in solidarity with writer-director Guillermo del Toro, who despite winning an Academy Award for Best Director, couldn’t convince the 15 credited producers on this thing to let him write it. So after years of will-they-won’t-they, it was decided that Hellboy would be rebooted. Perlman has described the situation as being an open wound.

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Clearly, had somebody with any sort of affection for the character - or really, somebody with any sort of affection for monsters in general - been in charge, Hellboy would have been easier to endure. But as it stands, under the direction of the very talented Neil Marshall, it is a film that shouldn’t have been released.

It’s loud, it’s ugly - both to look at and in its soul - and it’s an absolute waste of popular source material. I’d be lying to you if I said that I understood the plot. There’s some vague talk about the plague, and Harbour seems to yell all his lines, which makes things even more difficult to understand, but beyond that I have no clue what everyone was fighting over.

Watching Hellboy, you’re overcome by the decidedly unpleasant feeling that you’ve arrived 10 minutes too late to the screening, and are constantly on the back foot, racing to keep up, while the film, aggressively and on purpose, tries to trip you up. It isn’t that Hellboy is forgettable - that would have been too easy, too convenient - but it’s the sort of movie that will keep rattling away in the back of your mind, popping up when you’re at your most vulnerable, reminding you that the world can be a cruel place

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Something has gone awfully wrong; it must have. It’s too early to tell, but don’t be surprised if in the coming days someone does a deep-dive into the production, and finds that there were major disagreements on set.

Marshall, who has helmed two of the finest recent episodes of Game of Thrones - The Watchers on the Wall and Blackwater - has been curiously absent from the promotional tour; there’s something seriously fishy about that. But more obviously, absolutely no one involved appears to be on the same page, or having any fun at all. The tone is all over the place -- part Deadpool, part John Wick -- the action is unmemorable save for two brief scenes that must have been set in stone during pre-visualisation, months before cameras rolled, and the direction seems at odds with the script.

Hellboy is an unmitigated disaster, an utter catastrophe of a film whose fallout will extend beyond the cancellation of that sequel it’s teasing, and perhaps affect the careers of some involved. Eternal damnation would be a kindness.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Apr 12, 2019 09:19 IST