Hercules – Film Review

Dwayne Johnson is a mythical mercenary in a swords and sandals epic played for laughs

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the demigod warrior Hercules in a swords and sandals action fest from director Brett Ratner (X Men: The Last Stand) that revels in ridiculousness. Bending its epic source material – to create a Rambo of the ancient realm – this Hercules is a mythical mercenary for hire.

Packed with battle scenes we follow Herc questing to complete his “12 labours”, including a bid to decapitate five-headed snake Hydra. Strange beasts, whips, knives, arrows, spears… If you can mutilate a foe with it expect it to come flying out of the screen and in your face in 3D.

The son of Greek god Zeus and born of a mortal mother he’s got a regulation band of misfits at his side. Among them, Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) looks like a musclely Nicole Kidman and wields a bow and arrow with eye-piercing efficiency, while Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) faithfully kicks ass at Hercules’ side. There’s always comic relief amidst the blood-letting with Ian McShane (TV’s Deadwood) as the mystic seer of Argos Amphiaraus offering a nice line in double entendre: “If only your manhood was as long as your tongue!”

Fortunately, director Ratner cleverly surrounds Johnson with some weighty performances to flesh out the story. With Hercules on a mission to secure the safety of Athens for King Eurythseus (Joseph Fiennes) the plot thickens as neighbouring Thrace lead by Cotys (John Hurt, Alien) seek to unite against a tyrannical warlord and the descendant army of Hades. But with Peter Mullan’s (Tyrannosaur) General Sotacles snarling in the wings the threat of subterfuge lurks.

Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars is more 300 than Gladiator. Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic sparked a wave of loincloth wearing heroes doing battle in ancient times but none so tongue in cheek as Ratner’s. Dwayne Johnson dispatches baddies with Arnold Schwarzenegger styled one-liners. In it he’s not subverting his persona, as he did in Pain & Gain, but he can still sneer his through a pay off with aplomb: “Fucking centaurs!” Taking on an army of half-men half-horses, Hercules is the most bloodthirsty mythical mayhem with a 12A rating you’re likely to see.

Dan Brightmore

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