With his combination of built-like-a-breeze block bulk and genial, self-deprecating charm, Dwayne Johnson makes a perfect lead for this amiably tongue-in-cheek adventure about the mythical Greek hero.
His Hercules is at once larger-than-life and all too human; not the familiar demigod of legend but a warrior for hire who has a trusty band of companions to aid his exploits. Storytelling nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), is the one who adds the ‘son-of-Zeus’ spin that turns uncle Hercules’ deeds into superhuman feats.
In this version of the ancient world, a down-to-earth explanation for seemingly supernatural events can always be found, if you look hard enough – a shtick the film takes from its source in comic books created by the late Steve Moore.
But director Brett Ratner only takes the debunking so far. When Hercules and his friends – wily Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), sardonic seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Amazonian warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and mute beserker Tydeus (Aksel Hennie from Headhunters) – answer a call for help from John Hurt’s beleaguered King of Thrace, their heroism is genuine enough.
What follows is very much a sword-and-sandal version of the Magnificent Seven, as the comrades (who, admittedly, only number six) train a bunch of farmers to become fighters. Ratner stages the ensuing battles with admirable vigour and not a little flair, but it’s the knowingly cheesy jokes amid the action, delivered with panache by Johnson and his co-stars, that help make the film so ridiculously entertaining.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 98 mins. Director Brett Ratner.
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