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Time Out saysFun. It’s a crucial but often overlooked element in a summer blockbuster comic-book adaptation and it’s in ‘Hellboy’ by the spadeload. How could it not be when the central figure is a grouchy 60-year-old adolescent seven-foot half-human devil with a giant right arm and woman problems? Heartfelt horror is del Toro’s stock-in-trade, and ‘Hellboy’ resounds with the director’s glee at being handed the keys and told to cut loose on Mike Mignola’s cult comic-book creation. But for all Mignola’s vision and del Toro’s panache, this is Ron Perlman’s film: all in red and larger than life (clever photography beating CGI to buggery), he burns up the screen as the eponymous hero. This wisecracking, gun-toting, cigar-chomping, trenchcoat-wearing cross between Humphrey Bogart, Hannibal Smith from ‘The A-Team’ and Clint Eastwood is a long way from Peter Parker. No navel-gazing identity crisis here; the only concession Hellboy makes to the human world is filing his horns ‘to fit in’.
As del Toro rips through the opening half-hour exposition, we learn that Hellboy crawled into this world from another dimension during World War II. He now works for the US military alongside scientist and father figure Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt, a ringer for Hergé’s Professor Calculus), battling an eternal evil that currently manifests itself in the form of Rasputin, some Nazis and a chilling sand-veined cyborg in a gimp suit. Relishing these absurdities and with no tedious old aunties to accommodate, del Toro gets on with the business of furious entertainment, racking up a sequence of coruscating set-pieces against elaborate, urban-occult backdrops while giving Perlman space to cast a baleful eye over a burgeoning romance between his dream girl (and twisted firestarter) Liz (Selma Blair) and military apparatchik Agent Myers (Rupert Evans). Del Toro, in love with his source but never overawed by it, keeps things moving; Perlman ties it together with some of the driest witticisms this side of Indiana Jones. Like we said: fun.