It’s bad enough spending the entirety of your career sitting across the aisle from a man so fat that even if he had heard of the advent of deodorant, he could have never reached in far enough to mask his odor. And it’s bad enough waiting day after day for his swollen, bloated heart to burst so that you can have the show to yourself.
And it’s bad enough dying suddenly, realizing at the last minute the fat man was laughing at you all along, then to be resurrected from your final resting place by that voodoo-loving, snaggle-toothed creep Vincent Gallo in a desperate attempt to get a good review for his opus de merde, “Brown Bunny.” Now, I’m forced to walk the earth for eternity, never at rest, trapped in that place between life and death – the Lloyd Center – Zombie Gene Siskel: reviewer from beyond the grave.
As I lay in the hospital watching the credits roll on my life, I remember making myself one promise.
“Gene,” I said, “I will strangle myself with my own entrails before I ever review another piece of Hollywood schlock again.” But under the circumstances, and seeing as how my entrails are little more than sacks of dust and flies now, I’m willing to go back on that promise and so, I bring you Guillermo de Toro’s interpretation of seminal underground comic book “Hellboy.”
De Toro, the director who brought you “Blade 2” and “The Devil’s Backbone,” knows what it takes to make a comic book work on the big screen. His frantic direction style, completely free of terrible “Matrix”-inspired special effects, creates action sequences with weight. The fluidity we’ve come to expect, inspired by kung fu and realized through CGI, is gone. As characters smash through walls, get hit by subway cars and drop through ceilings, there is a definite feeling of weight. It’s visceral violence, and a refreshing change.
Also refreshing is the almost complete lack of character development; there’s no existential moping about the nature of man or pantywaist whining about love. The characters in this movie are as flat as the page they were written for and that’s how it should be.
No one goes to comic book movies to watch men in spandex appreciate sunsets. People want violence, superpowers and cleavage. De Toro knows and exploits it. He keeps it simple. The good guys (Americans) fight the bad guys (Nazis and Russians). The hero gets the girl, the sniveling sidekick gets a lesson in how to be a badass and lots of monsters get shot, smashed and blown to pieces. The man has seen “Commando” and knows what works.
Ron Perlman, who plays the title character, does an outstanding job keeping his performance funny and expressive despite 150 pounds of red make-up caked to his body, and John Hurt, who plays Hellboy’s adopted father and mentor, makes the leap between sage-like guide and nutty professor.
Which is not to say the movie doesn’t have its faults.
For one thing, it’s a comic book movie, which means it’s endlessly stupid, and you end up sitting in a theater full of grown men who get winded reaching for their soda. The end is a bit flat, a lot of build up for arguably the weakest fight scene in the movie and a quick wrap-up. It co-stars Selma Blair, who has a hard time with big words and scripts that require her to keep her shirt on. Worst of all, it features the vocal talents of David Hyde Pierce, better known as Miles of TV’s “Frasier,” who’s unmistakable ivy league accent is a real mood killer.
In all though, I’d say the movie is a success, and would recommend it to anyone who needs someplace to go to avoid admitting they have no actual friends.
Two half-rotten, practically-severed thumbs up!