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Hellboy (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 4 short films 'From the Den: Hellboy Recommends'; 8 set visit featurettes. 8 branching DVD Comics; Cast commentary; Hellboy story track. 27 part documentary 'Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation'; 4 featurettes including introduction by Selma Blair. Multi-angle storyboard comps of Kroenan's Lair; Deleted scenes with optional commentary; Character biographies; Scene deconstruction: Kroenan's Lair; Photo montage video; TV spots.

THINK of a super-hero and you might automatically conjure an image of a lone crusader, wearing a slightly camp outfit, who uses an everyday alter-ego to integrate with society.

Not so Hellboy, the lead character in Guillermo del Toro’s devilishly inventive action-adventure, based on Mike Mignola’s acclaimed Dark Horse Comic series.

As played by Ron Perlman, Hellboy is a red giant of a man, with a fondness for candy and cats, who is continually forced to file down his devil horns in a bid to divert attention away from them.

He may have been spawned in hell but he has been raised to combat the forces of evil and has a heart of gold, despite an outwardly gruff appearance. Oh, and he has buckets of charisma to boot.

Hellboy marks the most extravagant big screen outing for del Toro’s outlandish vision yet.

The Mexican director cut his teeth on the low-budget horror flick, The Devil’s Backbone, before adding some serious bite to Blade 2, and now finally gets to unleash hell (literally) for this latest incarnation.

Kicking off in 1944, the film opens with the type of prologue that could have been lifted straight from the Indiana Jones escapade, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Nazi leaders, desperate to turn the course of the war in their favour, attempt to open the gates of hell, under the mad leadership of Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) and his evil henchman, Kroenen, only to be thwarted by Allied Forces.

In the ensuing battle, a small demon-child is discovered, hiding amid some gravestones, and is immediately adopted by the rescue team.

Hellboy, as he is christened, is subsequently put to work under the guidance of the paternal Professor Broom (John Hurt), founder of the clandestine Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence (BPRD), who informs newcomers that ‘there are things out there that go bump in the night, and we’re the ones who bump back’.

Together with fellow ‘bumpers’, including Rupert Evans’ fresh-faced FBI recruit, John Myers, Selma Blair’s pyro-kinetic Liz Sherman (who holds the key to Hellboy’s heart), and Doug Jones’ telepathic ‘Mer-Man, Abe Sapien, who owes a lot of his demeanour to Star Wars’ C3P0, they set about ridding the world of evil.

But they have their work cut out by the return of Rasputin and his cronies (including the critter-like, multi-tentacled Sammael), who seem intent on reclaiming Hellboy as part of their plan to bring about Armageddon.

At its core, del Toro’s movie could read like any other comic book saga, given the underlying theme of good versus evil, and men who don’t fit in.

Yet, it rises above the mundane by the sheer bravado it displays, in all aspects of its production.

The film looks fantastic, and contains plenty of set pieces, yet it never loses sight of the characterisation, placing it in the Spider-Man school of big budget film-making, rather than the flimsy, computer-game orientated style of Van Helsing.

Some of the special effects feel a little too CGI-heavy, but del Toro, wisely, never allows them to swamp proceedings, and most of the confrontations are enlivened considerably by Perlman’s ability to deliver a telling one-liner at the end of them.

And therein lies another of the movie’s strengths - the charismatic central performance of its under-used lead actor.

Perlman fits the bill perfectly, exhibiting just the right amount of super-hero ‘cool’ mixed with a vulnerability born out of his frustrated love for Sherman.

Not everything hits, of course, and the film does eventually feel longer than it should, but del Toro’s eye for the obscure is such that you can forgive it for most of its excesses - even if the 12A rating seems a little generous given some of the violence.

This is, in the final analysis, weird but completely wonderful fun.

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