By John H. Foote
As portrayed by Ian McShane, bartender, owner of the Gem Saloon, murderer and terrifying presence in Deadwood, Al Swerengen is one of TV’s greatest creations. Dangerous, often a vile man, he has moments when he shows great kindness for those less fortunate than he is, though we know he will butcher anyone who crosses him. Watching McShane work, I wondered if it was possible for this extraordinary actor to be caught giving a bad performance? He has often been the best thing in a lot of bad movies … but here, wow, such a complete disaster.
Portraying Hellboy’s father, McShane is boring, drop dead boring.
Given the film he is in that is no surprise. Stripped of the cocky, smart ass attitude of original Hellboy, Ron Pearlman, the question I found myself asking throughout was, Why? Did we need a reboot of Hellboy? Why recast? But then such logical questions have no place among super hero films. Consider since 2002 we have had three actors portray Spider-Man spread over nine films, while since 1989 five actors have worn the cowl of the Dark Knight, i.e. Batman. I wonder sometimes if it matters who wears the suit?
Where is Del Toro? I refuse to mention the director here, but he does such an amateur job.
Recasting Hellboy means replacing Ron Pearlman, so good as the red giant who, despite his demonic look, is a good guy here to fight for the human race. In his place is David Harbour, a decent enough actor, an Emmy nominee as the protector on Stranger Things, the Netflix sensation, but he is no Pearlman. Lacking is the swagger, the cocky arrogance of the creature, and the comic timing.
The writers seem to feel they can replace the humour and wit with swearing, we hear the word “fuck” often, which surprised me because they never needed it with the previous films. Harbour looks the part, except for the goofy attempt at hair, and growls on cue, but we are never invested in him as a hero or character.
The worst super hero film I have seen was Green Lantern (2011), the Ryan Reynolds abomination … until this mess. This might be the year’s worst film come year end. Some movies are just painful to watch.
I hated every stinking frame of this piece of … you know.
One of Canada’s best-known film critics, he spent 10 years on TV as co-host of Reel to Real, and another 10 in education (still writing as a critic) as Director of the Toronto Film School, where he created the curriculum for three programs and taught film history. Film has always been his passion. He has written for magazines such as Toronto Life, Fashion and Hollywood North, been quoted in the Los Angeles and New York Times, as well as the major Toronto dailies. Online he has written for such sites as The Wrap, In Contention, Awards Circuit and The Cinemaholic. His first book Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker, was published in 2010. His second Steven Spielberg: American Film Visionary, a massive volume, has just found a publisher and he’s working on American Film Renaissance – 1967-2018 with Nick Maylor. As a critic, he has had the good fortune to interview directors and stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Emma Stone, Jane Fonda, and countless others. As he quips, “Everyone but Jack Nicholson!”