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Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) - Review

Hercules

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

YOU have to credit some blockbusters with just going for it and Brett Ratner’s Hercules does just that.

Rather like the recent films in the Fast & Furious franchise, this is a film that knows its own absurdities and embraces them, even going so far as to wink at the audience sometimes to reassure them that everyone’s in on the joke.

And the gag here is that the ‘legend of Hercules’ as conveyed by Greek mythology might not necessarily be true… but darn it if ‘the son of Zeus’ himself isn’t going to harness its power to instill fear into enemies for his own personal gain.

Dwayne Johnson is the eponymous hero who, together with a band of mercenaries, has forged a fiersome reputation for himself following the completion of his fabled 12 labours, who is subsequently recruited by the king of Thrace (John Hurt, in suitably hammy form) to protect his city from a vicious warlord with potentially supernatural powers.

But as Hercules and troops enter their latest battle, the legend surrounding him – and his own attitude towards it – is put under its biggest test, bringing back demons from Hercules own past.

Ratner’s film is delivered with bone-crunching intensity and positively zips along at a brisk 98 minutes of mayhem (Michael Bay, take note). As such, its shortcomings (lack of subtlety or complexity to name but two) are quite often easier to overlook.

And by keeping its tongue firmly in its cheek, Hercules isn’t attempting to be a 300-style bloodbath of homo-erotic intensity, but rather a film that can embrace some of those elements while nodding to everything from The Magnificent Seven to The Expendables with a little Clash of the Titans in between.

It’s a fun romp enhanced by some suitably OTT performances. Johnson, for his part, throws everything into the role (displaying the charisma to match his super-sized physicality), while the likes of Hurt, Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell bring knowing humour to their roles while never cheapening the requirements of their roles. As a result, all three make an impression – as do Headhunters’ star Aksel Hennie as a beast-like colleague and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as a sexy archer. Only Reece Ritchie’s story-teller grates but his impact is kept to a minimum.

Hence, for any misgivings that some viewers may have about the approach (which takes the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars as its inspiration), there’s plenty to enjoy – not least if you’re a fan of Johnson, whose eventual unleashing offers up a suitably crowd-pleasing high. Hercules is a guilty pleasure of epic proportions.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 98mins
UK Release Date: July 25, 2014