"There are things that go bump in the night. We are the ones who bump back." - Broom Bruttenholm
In 1944, the Nazis take one last stab at world domination by attempting to bring Hell unto earth via a portal on a remote part of Scotland. Russia's infamous mad monk Grigori Rasputin (Karl Roden) is resurrected by the Nazis to transport the Seven Gods of Chaos from hell to Hitler's regime, but the ever-vigilant US military and Professor Trevor Broom Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainor), (psychic advisor to President Roosevelt and head of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense), stop them dead in their tracks. Rasputin disappears and the only thing that comes through the portal is the devil's spawn in the form of a red bouncing baby boy complete with requisite tail and tiny horns. Professor Broom names the baby Hellboy (HB for short) and takes him home to raise as his own.
Fast forward 60 years to 2004. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is now a teenager (in Hellboy years) living in New Jersey in a secret facility with an aged Broom (John Hurt) and telepathic Mer-Man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones). He is being groomed to fight the powers of evil, but aside from battling an occasional paranormal attack that finds its way into Jersey, he spends most of his time eating pizza and pancakes, drinking beer, loving fellow paranormal Liz Sherman (a pyro-kinetic) from afar and waiting for the apocalypse. Despite his massive size, candy apple-coloured skin and tough guy persona, Hellboy's just a normal guy who can kick ass one minute and wear his heart on his sleeve the next. He has a fondness for cigars, kittens and Baby Ruth candy bars and trims his horns down to nubs with a belt sander in order to fit in. But all is not well in the Bruttenholm household. The Professor has learned he is dying and two of his old enemies (Bridget Hodson, Ladislav Beran) have reappeared and they plan on finishing the job they started sixty years ago - to reclaim Satan's son and bring forth the Seven Gods of Chaos. After helping Rasputin cross back over from the underworld, they promptly release a nasty tentacled creature of Lovecraftian proportions that if allowed to keep reproducing will threaten the safety of the world. Hellboy is humanity's only hope, so he along with Liz (Selma Blair), Abe and a young FBI agent named Meyers (Rupert Evans) prepare to take on the forces of darkness...
Based on Mike Mignola's Dark Horse comic book of the same name, Hellboy is Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's (Blade II, Mimic, Cronos) gothic vision brought to dazzling life on the big screen. It's his second comic book-to-film adaptation and his love for the genre shines through. Filmed in rich dark colours with loads of overused and sometimes cheesy CGI, the film is an eclectic mix of fantastic make-up, confusing storylines, great acting (most namely Ron Perlman), snide humour, huge plot holes and an odd, but endearing love story. This sixty million dollar labour of love stays faithful to Mignola's work and incorporates brilliant make-up effects by Rick Baker and an excellent Marco Beltrami score. The bad guys are over-the-top, the humour's a little too self-deprecating in places and the CGI has been done before (and better), but that just adds to the comic book feel of the film, which is what del Toro was going for.
Ron Perlman, the long-suffering Beast from television's Beauty and the Beast is no stranger to painfully long make-up sessions and prosthetics and is one of the most underrated actors around. He was always del Toro's only choice to play the 6ft 9in crimson crusader. The studio preferred Vin Diesel, but del Toro held firm. Blessed with an amazing voice, imposing physical presence and the ability to throw out corny one-liners with flair, Perlman chews the scenery (not to mention those ever-present cigars) and carries the film. Selma Blair as the somber Liz has good onscreen chemistry with Perlman and the scenes between them are both humourous and poignant. Rupert Evans as Meyers is nice to look at, but doesn't have a lot to do. He is romantically interested in Liz which brings out the jealousy in Hellboy (the scenes of him spying on Liz and Meyers are amongst the film's funniest). John Hurt is wonderful as Professor Broom and the father/son relationship plays out realistically between he and HB. Doug Jones does the mime work for Abe Sapien as it's David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame who provides the voice. Ladislav Beran is good as Kroenen, a masked henchman of Rasputin's who looks like a Nazi Darth Vader and Karl Roden does the best he can with one of the more boring villains I've seen in awhile.
Clocking in at a little over two hours, the film overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes. The fight scenes are initially thrilling, but grow repetitive, the storyline is nonsensical and the ending is anticlimactic. That said, the acting is excellent, the cinematography is gorgeous and the humour is laugh out loud funny. If you're looking for an entertaining couple of hours, then Hellboy's for you. You don't have to be a fan of the comic book to enjoy this film, and even if you are, I'm not sure you could work out the confusing mess of a story line, but it's a lot of fun and definitely one of the better comic book adaptations, probably even on a par with Spider-Man and X-Men.