Wednesday, 30 July 2014


Hard Labour

Can you smell what the Rock is cooking? Yes, I can, and it stinks.

Former WWE wrestler Dwayne Johnson plays the eponymous Greek hero. After his twelve legendary labours are complete the famed demi-God is living in exile with his band of merry mercenaries, including Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell. When a Thracian King (John Hurt) offers him grand riches for taking down a rampaging warlord, the invitation proves too good to refuse.

Hercules is disappointing because it has little to say for itself. Did everyone turn up exclusively for the paycheck or did they have an illusion of how this was going to be different from every other fantasy hero adventure. At times its a PG-Gladiator, then a CGI Ben Hur and finally a self-aware Samson and Delilah. Once again a British attempt at a popcorn summer hit is way off the mark, channelling a lame formula which is far too similar to the disastrous King Arthur keep my nightmares at bay.

Not even the unashamed shoehorning of eye candy into the story, in the form of a beautiful Amazonian warrior-princess (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), is enough to lift proceedings beyond mediocrity. It ain’t clever or grown up, guys. Still, when it is done right...

At least a few interesting quirks survive for me to praise. Having Hercules as a savvy opportunist, rather than the genuine son of Zeus, is a fresh novelty in the genre and sparks the better fragments of dialogue.

Also, with an easily recognisable cast of British and Scandinavian television names, it is not all bad news. Ian McShane is a class act in any production and manages to fuse a bit of credibility in some very hammy lines. On the other hand, there is something very wrong with Peter Mullan cracking a whip at half naked men. Strangely enough, his grizzly Scotsman routine looks a little out of place in Ancient Greece.

Then there is Hercules himself. Johnson is a likable actor in the same vein as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Coincidentally, Arnie began his English language career playing the same character, albeit in modern day New York. Their physical peculiarity (i.e. they both have giant muscles) gives the two hulks a sort of licence to get away with some laughable moments of ‘acting’. Whether you are laughing at them or with them is open to your interpretation. I am all for the latter.

Admittedly, this review confirms the prejudices most of you will have had beforehand. Sometimes life is annoyingly predictable. Here is the proof.


No comments:

Post a Comment