The famed Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is called upon to help Lord Cotys (John Hurt) eradicate an advancing enemy. Along for the ride are his loyal band of warriors but all is not what it seems with this battle. Soon Hercules must make a choice about what kind of man he wants to become, and inadvertently lays credence to his own mythology.
If you liked Clash of the Titans or the Mummy films, Hercules will do you just fine. It’s a big and bold blockbuster with a decent level of humour coupling the special effects and all-star cast. By grounding the myth of Hercules into a clever story about a mercenary whose reputation precedes him, the film tackles slightly new ground and it does work to some degree.
Dwayne Johnson is pretty much box office gold right now and there’s little doubt that his involvement in any project elevates their respective stature and gross (see Fast & Furious, G.I Joe etc). As a project that’s quite close to his own heart, Johnson is magnetic here and hands in a very likeable performance full of brute strength and roguish charm. There was never any doubt that he would look the part of Hercules but his physique is certainly worth applause given the strict training regime he adopted to land the role.
The supporting cast are all solid too with Rufus Sewell stealing his scenes as Autolycus. As good as Dwayne Johnson is, it’s the combined efforts of Sewell and an impressive Ian McShane as Amphiaraus that hold your attention and keep things fun. Aksel Hennie is brilliant as Tydeus, a mute brute and Hercules’ most loyal follower whilst Joseph Fiennes hams it up big time as King Eurystheus.
Elsewhere Ingrid Bolsø Berdal really impresses as the warrior Atalanta. John Hurt looks confused and drunk throughout but he’s such a professional, he can do this kind of role in his sleep. However any attempt to establish herself as more than just Christiano Ronaldo’s girlfriend falls on deaf ears because Irina Shayk is really wasted here. Her contribution is limited to two very brief flashback sequences that do little for the story or her career.
Director Brett Ratner usually knows how to handle big scale blockbusters but he seems slightly held back here. Perhaps the pursuit of a lower certification took its toll but Hercules doesn’t have a stand-out action sequence. There’s plenty of mayhem and spectacle but given the director, the star and the project, I expected much more. The effects are solid for the most part, with a lion throw-down being a particular highlight. But there’s no wow factor here and that’s a big disappointment.
Hercules is a decent watch and has just about enough to warrant your time and money. If we do get a sequel, another journey with these colourful characters could be fun. For now, Hercules remains a passable attempt at matinee action with the charisma of Johnson and the cast carrying this blockbuster past the finish line.