Hercules: Movie Review
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes
Director: Brett Ratner
Thrace yourselves because this Hercules has its tongue so far in its cheek throughout.
In a move that rips up the mythology of the man, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is Hercules, a sword for hire, who's taken on by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to rid his kingdom of the horror that is Rhesus, a warlord apparently wreaking havoc on the world.
But when Hercules and his team investigate, they find there's more to Cotys' story than meets the eye....
Deciding to take on the myth of Hercules, using the graphic novel as the basis and giving him a team of mercenaries to help is a clever touch, but it gives way to an ongoing cheesy message of self-belief that's more irritating than galvanising in director Brett Ratner's take on the myth.
With a knowing wink to the audience - none more so than Ian McShane's soothsayer who keeps prophesying his own death and then getting it wrong- the film is tonally unsure of what direction it ultimately wants to head in. Choosing to remove the myth and the mystical may have been a bold narrative stroke but replacing it with nothing of merit is disastrous.
Dismissing the twelve labours tasks in favour of a political power struggle and corruption story is a storytelling back peddle given that nothing about the plot helps propel it compellingly from one battle shot to the next.
And talking of those, while the science behind it all is very sound, the action is incredibly workmanlike and uneventful, with no directorial flourishes on hand to help lift its game. 3D this time makes things a lot more murky than necessary and seems a little pointless in places.
Dwayne Johnson does his best but his troubled Hercules sits at odds with the rest of the happy go lucky mercenary team he has around him; plus a woman and adoring kid are simply brought in to offer up some emotional pull for The Rock but fail to lift any stakes at all.
Elsewhere, his team fail to really hit the mark, offering a few quips here and there but generally are overshadowed by the glistening oiled up pecs on show, despite all their attempts to make this the H Team / Greek Expendables. Joseph Fiennes risks the wrath of the gods with one of the hammiest performances ever and Hurt puts Caligula to shame as the king of Thrace.
All in all, Hercules is not preposterous enough to carry it off and not original enough to stand out from the swords and sandals pantheon.