Grouch on the Couch Rants: Hellboy (2019) – The Devil Made ‘Em Screw It

The Hellboy remake can go straight to Boy. I tried harder writing that joke than the people who wrote this movie. 

SUMMARY

Hellboy (David Harbour) is a demon hunter who also is a demon or a half-demon or something like that. Whatever, he’s big, he’s red, and his right arm looks like it was pulled off of a different action figure and glued on. He works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, an organization that fights all the stuff that you traditionally find in those creepy German fairy tales preying on children: Ogres, giants, witches, Ted Nugent, etc. The BPRD is led by Hellboy’s adoptive father Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian “C*cksucker” McShane), who found Hellboy after he was summoned by Nazis and Grigori Rasputin (Markos Routhwaite) back in 1945 and elected not to kill him despite the fact that Hellboy was summoned to bring about Ragnarok. 

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The right hand of doom.

After killing a Mexican Vampire (Mario de la Rosa) who tells him the end is coming, Hellboy is sent to hunt giants with the Osiris Club, a bunch of rich English guys who have been doing this since knights were en vogue. They quickly stab Hellboy in the back and try to kill him to prevent the apocalypse and he falls into a river.

At the same time, a boar-man named Gruagach (Stephen Graham/Douglas Tait) beseeches the Baba Yaga (Troy James/Emma Tate), the Russian Witch, for a way to get revenge on Hellboy. We’re later told that this is because Hellboy stopped him from being able to switch places with a baby and be raised human. Baba Yaga tells him to find the pieces of the witch Nimue (Milla Jovovich) and put them together, which apparently isn’t hard because there are only like 7 pieces, instead of the hundreds that you’d think a body would end up in over 1500 f*cking years. Seriously, why do all these damned “separated body parts” stories keep the number so small rather than just having the caretakers go “oh hey, another year passed, let’s cut another piece off and throw it into a new mine shaft?” This is why Voldemort’s an idiot.

Hellboy - 2Nimue.jpg
Also, she lost to people 1500 years ago, why would she do better now?

Whatever. Hellboy gets out of the river, because of f*cking course he does, only to find out that apparently there actually were giants that easily killed the giant hunters. Hellboy kills them in what is admittedly a pretty cool fight scene, but then the movie has to keep going by having him pass out as a young woman named Alice (Sasha Lane) arrives. She saves Hellboy, revealing that she’s a medium and also the baby Hellboy saved from Gruagach. The BPRD shows up to tell Hellboy that the last piece of Nimue is in the custody of the Osiris Club, who have now been massacred. It’s also revealed that Nimue wants Hellboy to kickstart the end of days, because that’s what they always want him to do in these movies. He’s joined by a werejaguar named Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), who has secret orders from M11, the British BPRD, to kill Hellboy if he needs to. 

Hellboy - 3Giants
I recommend just watching this scene, or a better film.

Hellboy gets transported to Baba Yaga’s house, who hates Hellboy for taking her eye, offers to tell Hellboy Nimue’s location in exchange for one of his eyes. Hellboy cheats her, resulting in her cursing him, because we need an emotional thing later. The heroes head to the location and kill a bunch of witches, but Nimue’s back because movie’s gotta movie. She poisons Alice, but Hellboy goes and wakes up Merlin to cure her, who also offers Hellboy the way to Excalibur, because apparently he’s descended from King Arthur through his mother. Hellboy passes, however, despite it being the weapon that cut Nimue apart in the first place. Also, almost no version of the Arthurian myth has Arthur leave a surviving royal lineage, and the ones that do mostly say that the Pendragon line only produces male heirs, so I’m calling bullshit on this “descended from Arthur through his mother” crap. 

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Yeah… this isn’t as awesome as you’d think it would have to be.

Merlin the Plot Device dies and so do most of the supporting characters. The key characters fight Nimue in a church, like one does. Hellboy kills Gruagach and falls into a pit containing Excalibur, rendering Hellboy’s earlier decision pointless. He refuses to pull it out until Nimue kills Bruttenholm, completing Baba Yaga’s curse. Hellboy pulls the sword, which starts the apocalypse for some reason, until he kills Nimue, because cliche hero’s gotta cliche hero. Later, they find Abe Sapien, which is too little too late for this film.

END SUMMARY

Thank goodness the third season of Stranger Things came out, because I would hate for a movie like this to hurt David Harbour’s career. Actually, his portrayal of Hellboy was one of the only good things in the film. He conveys a lot more complex emotions than the dialogue allows, he looks great as Hellboy, he’s completely distinct from the version of Hellboy in the other films without feeling like a betrayal of the character, and also he feels like he’s actually giving the film effort. I love Ian McShane in general, but from his narration at the beginning of the movie, I thought he was phoning it in. Given the quality of dialogue he was reading I can’t quite blame him, but still, at least Harbour tried to make lemonade out of the pile of lemon-scented dung that they gave him to work with. Daniel Dae Kim, an actor I normally like, also seemed checked out, like he was upset that he was the second choice for the role after Ed Skrein backed out over the whitewashing of the character.  I didn’t see American Honey, so I have no idea if this was above or below average for Sasha Lane. Milla Jovovich… well, she was Leeloo, she gets a pass from me. What kind of pass? If you can’t answer that, punch yourself in the head and go watch The Fifth Element.

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The acting really isn’t the problem, compared to the story and the dialogue. The story feels like it was cobbled together from a bunch of different scripts precisely because it WAS exactly that. This movie adapts like three or four different plotlines from the Hellboy comics and that’s kind of a mistake out of the gate. Not only are those all fairly long plots to work in, they’re also from comics that occurred pretty far into Hellboy’s run, where the series didn’t have to worry about establishing characters or trying to quickly convey how they’d previously interacted. Even more, the film had to convey how the world you’re building is different than the only previous one we’d seen in the medium, and it’s quite a bit different from both the previous movie and the comic. A big difference is the presence of Hellboy on Earth. In the Guillermo del Toro films, Hellboy is a well-kept secret. In the comics, he’s the world’s most famous supernatural investigator. Here, he’s sort of in-between, not in hiding but also not publicly super recognized. So, basically, this film had to distinguish itself, establish a world, convey a complicated story, explain the history of the characters, and also kick-ass at the same time. That can be pulled off (like Into the Spider-Verse did), but it requires a great script and some efficient storytelling. This was not that script.

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Even putting Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson didn’t help.

It’s difficult for me to pick exactly when I realized I was probably going to hate this film, but since it was during the flashback that opens the movie, I’d say it was about 25 seconds in when Ian McShane is throwing in some random “f*cks” to remind people what the rating is. However, I can absolutely say when I realized that I definitely was going to hate the film, and that’s when Hellboy delivered the line “if my face could talk it would disagree with you.” That line is so terrible and delivered with such unearned confidence in its quality that I just about vomited. Everything after that wasn’t much of an improvement, but my standards had hit “The Room without ironic pleasure” at that point, so I couldn’t care.

Hellboy - 7Room
Did Tommy Wiseau write this film? No, because I’d have enjoyed that.

I also pretty much gave up hope of any redemption in how the plot was going to play out when the knights stab Hellboy in the back and ask him “we’ve been doing this for a thousand years, you didn’t really think we’d need your help, did you?” This is stupid on several levels. First, why didn’t Hellboy ask himself that, particularly given that they explain the history of the hunt before setting off? Second, it turns out that the giants are real and they quickly massacre the knights, so they DID need his help and they could have killed him after he helped them kill the giants. Third, their plan was to blame the giants for his disappearance so that Bruttenholm wouldn’t notice, but Hellboy kills all of them single-handedly while heavily wounded, so it seems like it would have been suspicious anyway. I’d say that hey might not know that he’s that strong, but they’ve been studying him for 60 years. Fourth, why even take him on a real hunt if you’re just going to kill him? You’re doing it to prevent the apocalypse, couldn’t you have thought of a ruse that would be more likely to kill him? Fifth, you decapitate giants, but you think you can drown a freaking demon? Lastly, this entire act pretty much ends up doing nothing, as it has almost no impact on the rest of the story, meaning it was pointless. 

AND THAT’S MOST OF THE MOVIE. Something kind of easily preventable happens, Hellboy kind of deals with it, but then his decisions are rendered pointless by circumstances so that they can get to the next plot point. 

This movie sucks. David Harbour is pretty good and some of the fights look neat, but everything else is poorly executed. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: Forced Creativity is Still Creativity (Spoiler-Free) + Weird Theory

SpoilerFree

John Wick is back and killing people, but this time he’s being hunted by an entire army of professional assassins.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Starting a few minutes after the last movie ended, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on the run from the “High Table” that apparently controls all of the mobs in the world after shooting Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), one of the members of the High Table who betrayed him in the previous film, while on sacred ground. The High Table has excommunicated him from all mob resources and has put a bounty on his head of $14 million, attracting every assassin in the world. John must figure out a way to get rid of the bounty while fighting off an amount of killers that makes it seem like most of the global population murders for money.

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Admittedly, after killing hundreds of other people, he might forget how to not kill people.

END SUMMARY

I loved John Wick. It was an amazing action movie that basically stripped down the story as much as possible without sacrificing emotional impact and providing a lot of worldbuilding with minimum exposition. Mostly, the long-take fight sequences provided a much desired counterbalance to the rapid cut and fast moving fights we see in most other action movies, particularly those in the MCU. It’s not that the other style is bad, but it definitely feels more dramatic to be able to just show the action in its completeness, particularly since it shows the real, and extremely impressive, skills of the stunt performers. It also allows for some more aesthetically creative fights without diminishing the brutality of the violence.

JW3 - 2Color
Also, the use of color is… just amazing.

This movie continues all of that, but it becomes clear quickly that the filmmakers are realizing that they are running out of ways to keep making gunfights interesting without seeming repetitive, so they very cleverly figure out ways to force the fights to be different. Sometimes it’s by adding other people or animals, sometimes it’s by keeping John from having a gun and forcing them to improvise, sometimes it’s by reducing the effectiveness of John’s weapons, but the key is that every action sequence in the movie still feels original. Is it sometimes a little forced, like they have to go out of their way to avoid showing John having a gun or being able to just wreck all of the bad guys the way he previously has? Yeah, a little, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.

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I mean, he uses a horse as a weapon. That’s just neat.

The world in which the film is set is expanded upon a lot, including showing us some more of the inner workings of the nebulous organization that the High Table oversees. The worldbuilding continues to be interesting and the characters that populate it are all compelling, even if they’re just a clever variation on an archetype, like the wise poor man or the shadowy ninja assassin. We also get a little more background on Wick himself, but not enough to remove the air of mystery and badass that surrounds him.

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Also, Halle Berry has amazing dogs.

Basically, if you liked the first two movies, you’ll like this one.

WEIRD FAN THEORY (Mild Spoilers)

John is actually Koschei the Deathless from Russian Mythology. Now, give me a minute on this:

JW3 - 5Koschei.jpg
I mean, they even both have… beards… and skin?

John Wick’s motivation is that someone killed his dog and stole his car. At least, that’s the ostensible motive. The reality is that the dog was a gift from his late wife and the car contained one of the last mementos he had left of her. Thus, when John loses them, he is losing a part of her, the great love of his life for whom he moved heaven and Earth… or, more precisely, killed an absolutely enormous amount of people in one night, essentially accomplishing an impossible task in order to be with her. The rage that fuels John is the desire to retain the powerful love he felt for the woman he lost. Essentially, he’s doing terrible things because he no longer has his heart.

JW3 - 6Wife
Her C.O.D. says “Plot and Motivation.” Common for women in movies.

One thing that comes up repeatedly in the films is that John’s nickname is “Baba Yaga,” translated from Russian as “the Boogeyman.” However, at one point in the first film, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) points out that John’s not actually the Boogeyman, he’s the one you send to kill the Boogeyman. In other words, he’s the one that you would send to kill Baba Yaga.

JW3 - 7Boogeyman
Believe the old Russian guy.

In Russian Mythology, Baba Yaga is a witch or a magical being that takes the form of an old woman. As with most figures in Russian Fairy Tales, her role can vary wildly, going from snatching children and eating people who fail her tests to being a kindly, maternal figure who feeds lost children and helps them find their way home. Universally, though, she’s extremely powerful and immortal. In fact, there’s typically only one figure in Russian Mythology that is capable of destroying her: Koschei the Deathless. Sometimes he’s her husband, sometimes her brother, sometimes just her male counterpart, but she often is stated to know that he’s the only one who might be able to kill her. Hence, if John Wick is the guy who could kill Baba Yaga, he’d be Koschei the Deathless.

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See? Here he’s even meeting Baba Yaga as Ted Theodore Logan.

While Russian Mythology tends to vary a lot, Koschei’s three main qualities are that A) he’s deathless (duh), B) he can kill anyone and is shown to be magically blessed with all weapons, and C) his heart/soul is gone. The reason why he is immortal (deathless) is because his heart is gone, and typically the only way to get rid of him is to find it. His heart is usually depicted as being hidden in some complicated nested form, such as: The heart is in a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg is in a duck, the duck is in a hare, the hare is in a box, the box is in a log, the log is in a pond, the pond is in a forest, the forest is on an island. Essentially, it’s inside of a Matryoshka nesting doll. Without a heart, Koschei cannot die.

JW3 - AHeart
Also, sometimes it’s a gemstone.

What do we know about John Wick? Well, 1) he’s Russian (established in this film and implied in the first one), 2) he’s specifically a Ruska Roma, or a Russian Gypsy, a people who are known more for their performing than for their combat ability, and who are, mostly through racism, associated with myths like Baba Yaga and Koschei, 3) his name is fake, but his birth name is likely also fake, with his revealed “real name” being the equivalent of John Johnson, 4)  before he had his wife, he was famous for killing people with a pencil and after he loses her, he similarly proves that he can kill anyone with anything, and 5) he can survive stuff that would kill even most action movie protagonists (particularly in this film). Note that John is only portrayed as being lethal and immortal when he doesn’t have his heart, which is to say his love, but when he is at peace (with his dogs to serve as his heart), he is beaten up by a group of two-bit punks and his house is blown up. If he doesn’t have a gaping hole to fill in his life, he’s not immortal.

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He even bears a token of a Russian bond.

What does this mean? Well, first of all, I’m not saying he’s literally Koschei the Deathless, so I’m not predicting that magic or old women in chicken-legged houses are going to be in the next one (sadly), but I’m saying his story is similar. Ultimately, the only way John Wick can end is the same way any story with Koschei always ends: With someone returning his heart to him and killing him. I firmly believe that it’s only when John actually finds something to love again that he’ll be allowed to die.

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Of course, I could be pulling this out of nowhere. It’s not like John Wick literally keeps one of his most treasured photos inside of a book of Russian Mythology depicting Koschei the Deathless in the New York Public Library, right? Oh, wait, that’s literally in the opening scene which I sadly can’t find a clip of online to place here. Your move, John Wick: Chapter 4.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.