Film review: Hellboy doesn't quite descend into purgatory but it comes close

David Harbour and Sasha Lane in Hellboy
Damon Smith

HELL hath no fury like wise-cracking demonic spawn with surrogate daddy issues in director Neil Marshall's laboured reboot of Mike Mignola's Dark Horse Comics series.

Flexing its technical design muscles in every frame, Hellboy doesn't quite descend into purgatory but there are moments when it comes perilously close, with a dizzying array of digital trickery that doesn't always fuse seamlessly with performances.

Some action-packed sequences are unnecessarily protracted and Marshall delights in eviscerating, decapitating, skewering and disembowelling men and women in gore-soaked close-up to the thunderous beat of Benjamin Wallfisch's bombastic score.

The revamp arrives more than 10 years after Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro unleashed trolls, goblins and a nine-feet tall Angel Of Death in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest but a change of key personnel behind and in front of the camera – Stranger Things actor David Harbour replaces Ron Perlman in the title role – suggests Mignola's horned anti-hero could have been rested for another decade.

Spewed from the flaming bowels of the Earth during the Second World War, Hellboy (Harbour) wages war on creatures of the dark as a valued member of the Bureau For Paranormal Research And Development (BPRD).

Under the command of his adopted father, Professor Butterholm (Ian McShane), Hellboy travels to Tijuana to rescue fellow agent Esteban Ruiz (Mario de la Rosa) from a vampire's nest at a lucha libre wrestling ring.

When the mission goes sour, the wise-cracking monster hunter ventures to England to accompany Osiris Society president Lord Adam Glaren (Alistair Petrie) on the hunt for three rampaging giants.

In the ensuing melee, allegiances become tangled and Hellboy is reunited with a girl from his past, Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane). Her ability to communicate with the dead proves vital when hulking wild boar Gruagach (Stephen Graham) reassembles the severed limbs of a powerful witch (Milla Jovovich).

Captain Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), head of Special Ops for M11, and soothsayer Lady Hatton (Sophie Okonedo) accompany Hellboy on a suicide mission to slay the diabolical crone.

Hellboy is lighter on wry humour than its predecessors, although there is unintentional comedy in an overblown prologue.

Harbour is more misery than mirth as the eponymous superhero, wrestling with a gloomy prophecy which permits Marshall to render apocalyptic destruction on a grand scale.

Somewhere amidst the rubble is a leaner 100-minute action adventure snarling to be released.

HELLBOY (15, 121 mins) Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Comedy. David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, Stephen Graham, Sophie Okonedo, Alistair Petrie, Mark Stanley, Mario de la Rosa. Director: Neil Marshall.

RATING: 5/10

Released: April 11 (UK & Ireland)

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