Hellboy 2018 ***


The knives were out for Neil Marshall’s reboot, rehash, re-imagining of the comic book property Hellboy, which crashed and burned at the box office with barely a whiff of brimstone or sulphur. And yet, it’s not by any means as bad as might have been expected, with some flashes of wit in the script, some huge visuals and a decent centre in Stranger Things’s David Harbour. Having an enormous face seems to be the requisite for getting cast in this role, and while Harbour’s countenance is undeniably huge, it’s not quite of the ironing board dimensions of Ron Perlman. Harbour seems a little lost under the latex and make-up, but still makes a fist of Hellboy’s laconic attitude, with Ian McShane having some fun as his dad. The story, about secret societies, Nazis, sorceresses and the usual Hellboy elements is familiar, although Milla Jovovich is a memorable villainess. Truth be told, this isn’t much better or worse that the two Guillermo del Toro versions, which were no great shakes either; for Marshall, who musters a certain vulgarity as well as some big action scenes, it’s a setback perhaps, but one that suggests he’s got what it takes to deliver a great action film one day.


John Wick: Chapter 2 2017 ****

As with the Terminator films, the sequel to John Wick faced a specific challenge; how to expand the universe of the first film while staying true to the stripped down ethos; John Wick barely lasts eighty minutes, and that brevity and focus is part of the appeal. Taking place a mere four days after the first film, John Wick 2 takes the franchise in a different direction, taking Wick (Keanu Reeves) over to Italy and then back to NYC with a price on his head. Wick’s gradual distancing from Winston (Ian McShane) and the establishment at the Continental Hotel provides a wider frame than the revenge theme of the original, and it’s fun to see Franco Nero as Julius, the manager of the Hotel Continental in Rome. Chad Stahelski’s film also takes time to investigate elements of the Wick mystique, including a graphic illustration of Wick’s ability to wield a pencil. The action, including a terrific car-wrecking sequence as an opener and a delirious art-gallery shoot-em-up, delivers in spades, and if the element of surprise has gone, there’s plenty for genre fans to soak up here, not least Reeves’ impeccable, graceful presence as the world’s best assassin.

Hot Rod 2007 ***


The success of Brooklyn 911 seems to suggest that Andy Samberg has finally caught a break; the Saturday Night Live star has struggled to find the right outlets for his talents; contrast his appalling turn in the equally appalling That’s My Boy to his fragrant work as part of The Lonely Island. His 2007 vehicle Hot Rod demonstrated his latent talent; as Rod Kimble, he’s an aspiring stunt-man, punch-drunk on his own hubris, who undertakes a dangerous motorcycle jump in a bid to make money for his father’s operation. With a strong ensemble, including Ian McShane, Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Will Arnett, Akiva Shaffer’s film is a deliberately low-brow comedy with more laughs than many big-budget efforts.