PLOT: Hercules (Dwayne Johnson), having completed his twelve labors, is now a sword-for-hire along with his comrades Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amphiaraus (Ian McShane) and his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). He's recruited by a besieged king (John Hurt) to rescue his kingdom from a force of marauding warriors, but this latest task just may prove once-and-for-all whether or not he truly is the son of Zeus.
REVIEW: Brett Ratner's HERCULES hits theaters with curious lack of buzz, thanks in no-small-part to Paramount's decision to hold off on press screenings until the day before it opens. Despite this apparent lack of faith, Ratner's re-imagined HERCULES actually isn't half bad. Compared to the bloat of something like TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, the fact that this is a ninety minute action film that doesn't take itself too seriously is kinda refreshing.
While certainly grander than the cheap-skate LEGEND OF HERCULES (which got a “blink-and-you'll-miss-it” release in January), Ratner's take on the legend doesn't aim for epic stature. Rather, it's a simple, but effective update of the type of schlocky, b-grade HERCULES movies that used to be made with guys like Steve Reeves and Lou Ferrigno. Based on the Steven Moore comic, Ratner's take is less dependent on Greek gods and mythology, keeping the question of whether or not Hercules is in fact a demi-god ambiguous. In any case, this is short on monsters, which is probably a good thing considering how bad some of the CGI wolves and lions look. Instead, this is focused more on battles and brawn, giving Johnson ample opportunity to flex his muscles and look heroic.
People love to beat up on Brett Ratner as a director, but given the right material he can be effective. HERCULES seems within his range. This isn't BRAVEHEART, and Ratner knows it, but instead of ripping-off 300 like so many other directors do these days, he gives this a classy, old-school sword and sandal look. Working with ace cinematographer Dante Spinotti, HERCULES has some really nice visuals, although given how much of the film takes place in dim light, the dark 3D glasses trade some of the visual oomph for pretty run-of-the-mill 3D effects. This would likely play better in 2D. The score by Fernando Velazquez also sounds appropriately old-school, with it marred only by the obligatory closing credits rock song.
Ratner's certainly assembled a rock-solid cast, with ol'Herc's band of warriors being an especially merry bunch. Rufus Sewell both looks and sounds like Terrence Stamp's General Zod as Hercules' second-in-command, while Ian McShane mercilessly steals every scene as the group's oracle who constantly predicts his own death, only to frequently get it wrong to comic effect. Aksel Hennie (MAX MANUS) does a lot with his wordless part as Hercules' feral but loyal companion, while Ingrid Bolso Berdal has a star-making part as the kick-ass huntress Atalanta (it helps that while everyone wears armour, Berdal's makes sure to bare her shapely mid-riff).
As for Johnson himself, while he's not called-upon to do much other than act tough, fight and get his shirt off whenever he can (his tunic is also rather short), he's still a charismatic, likable guy who can easily carry a movie like this. One area HERCULES does unfortunately come up short is in the villains department, with Joseph Fiennes having too minor a part, and others only being revealed just prior to the conclusion. It also takes a little too long for the action to kick in, with the movie almost half over before we get our first proper battle scene.
While this definitely isn't a game-changing programmer, or the movie that's going to finally mint Johnson as a superstar, this is still a reasonably entertaining action movie, and a lot better than other recent sword-and-sorcery epics. As long as you go in with your expectations in check, you should have fun with this affectionately cheesy B-movie. It's simple, but therein lies the charm.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...