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Film review: Hercules

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You’d be forgiven for getting a sense of déjà vu here, as it only feels like yesterday we were enjoying the well-chiseled and gratuitously unclothed body of Kellan Lutz in Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules. Yes, this is the second film of the year to plunder the origins of the mythical hero of Ancient Greece and it is certainly the poorer of the two. In fact, it’s downright awful; an unfunny comedy with a dash of gleeful violence for good measure. It's as if the makers had watched the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and felt it could do with being a little less cerebral. 

The insincere tone is clear from the start. Whereas The Legend of Hercules plays the whole thing with deadly seriousness – and is all the better for it – Brett Ratner’s much lighter (but, oddly, more vicious) romp never lets a moment pass without telling us this is all a joke. Instead of coming across as witty and knowing, it all feels lazy and very annoying.

Dwayne Johnson does what he can with the title character, though to be honest characterisation isn’t high on the agenda here. It’s all about cramming in as many dire gags and violent deaths as possible. I’m not naïve, I know Ancient Greece was a bloody time, but it’s the way in which the slaughter is used as a method of humour I found more than a little distasteful. The flippant sadism of the whole thing is troubling. There is also an ugly scene of vengeful violence that we are supposed to sit there and support.

The rest of the cast is largely populated by faces from British film and television, including John Hurt, Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell. There is also Swedish actor Rebecca Furguson who actually contributes a better English accent to the proceedings as a Greek princess than she did as the Northamptonshire-born Queen consort of England in BBC One’s The White Queen last year.

In the end, this isn’t going to win any Oscars, it’s too stupid in a forgettable sort of a way to earn itself cult status and the most it will be is a diverting time waster for very undemanding viewers.

Hercules (2014), directed by Brett Ratner, is released in cinemas on 25 July in the UK by Paramount Pictures, Certificated 12A.


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