HELLBOY directed by Guillermo del Toro, written by del Toro and Peter Briggs from the comic by Mike Mignola, produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Mike Richardson, with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt and Rupert Evans. 132 minutes. A Revolution Studios production. A Columbia release. Opens Friday (April 2). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 87. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Ron Perlman must be the most patient actor on earth. Just think of Quest For Fire, the years on Beauty And The Beast and now Hellboy. Has any actor this side of Boris Karloff spent so many hours sitting in makeup chairs getting his features obliterated?
In Hellboy, he's got an all-red body suit and restructured face, and horns. He's got makeup on his makeup here to play a demon adopted in childhood by a callow scientist played by the smoke-and-velvet-voiced John Hurt. (I saw this the day after Dogville, and it felt a bit odd to hear that distinctive Hurt voice crossing between two worlds.) Hellboy becomes the FBI's principal weapon against otherworldly incursions.
Adapted by Guillermo del Toro from Mike Mignola's comic, Hellboy has Nazi occultism, Rasputin back from the dead, people trying to open the inter-dimensional gateway to let the ancient gods of chaos into our world and Selma Blair as the hot chick. Really hot. She's pyrokinetic.
Remarkably faithful to the comic - shots and sequences are lifted straight from the book - Hellboy is one of the best of the recent comic book adaptations. I have to give credit to del Toro, a comic book geek at heart (as if you couldn't tell from Blade II). He's also a great fan of Perlman, who starred in his early Mexican horror film, Cronos, and had a supporting role in Blade II.
What's impressive is that Hellboy runs over two hours yet doesn't feel that long. Del Toro has allowed space for comedy, Hellboy's brooding romanticism, the travails of Abe Sapien, more commonly known as the fish guy (embodied by Doug Jones and voiced by David Hyde Pierce), and the imminent destruction of the world.
There's a lot of stuff going on, and the filmmakers even care enough to set up things like Hellboy's being fireproof.
No one's going to mistake this for high art. It's a big plate of empty cinematic calories, but as such things go, these are extremely tasty empty cinematic calories, and for a production of this size it's surprisingly light on its feet.
I am finding very pleasurable the irony that Mel Gibson's Jesus movie was knocked out of the number-one spot by the Dawn Of The Dead remake, and that Hellboy will probably take that spot this weekend.