Dwayne Johnson: Hercules
Ian McShane: Amphiaraus
John Hurt: Lord Cotys
Director: Brett Ratner
1400 BC, a tormented soul walked the earth that was neither man nor god. Hercules was the powerful son of the god king Zeus, for this he received nothing but suffering his entire life. After twelve arduous labours and the loss of his family, this dark, world-weary soul turned his back on the gods finding his only solace in bloody battle. Over the years he warmed to the company of six similar souls, their only bond being their love of fighting and presence of death. These men and women never question where they go to fight or why or whom, just how much they will be paid.
“I thought heroes fight for glory.
But mercenaries fight for gold.”
Remember my review of “The Legend of Hercules” ? Probably you noticed that I wasn’t really impressed by it. First, there was no sign of the “Twelve labours” in this film. And it was a hodgepodge of topics from various films. It looked a bit like “Gladiator” mixed with “Pompeii” and “300”. And also, Kellan Lutz didn’t have enough charisma to become a mythical figure like Hercules. That’s why I was so curious about this version with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And although it’s not exactly a masterpiece, it still could captivate me. First of all there was a small part dedicated to the labours and also because of some memorable moments.
What intrigued me the most was the fact that one questioned Hercules’s status as a god in a subtle way. I doubted at some point whether he really was a descendant of Zeus or simply a mortal provided with the necessary muscles and fighting skills. It seemed as if he wasn’t immortal : “Cover up, before your loyal army sees you bleed like a mortal”. It was as if he used that unique status to scare off opponents (“The more they believe Hercules is truly the son of Zeus, the less likely they are to fight”) or to use this infamous reputation as a lure for new clients. The opening scene with Hercules being assisted by his companions to hunt down a band of pirates, gave the impression as if he couldn’t single-handedly get the job done.
Okay, maybe it was the intention to make “the mystery Hercules”, invincible son of Zeus, more mysterious. Johnson plays a heck of a Hercules. That’s an indisputable certainty. His impressive torso and superhuman biceps filled with swollen veins make him a fearsome and imposing demigod. “Conan” will always be associated with Schwarzenegger. Believe me, “Hercules” will be the same for Johnson. An ideal role written especially for him. It’s just pure joy to see this semi-barbarian screaming out loud while rushing towards his opponents, frantically waving with a huge mace. With crushed and split skulls as a result. The level of adrenaline is skyrocketing during the great battles.
Of course you could say that they’ve borrowed from other classics. It’s just like “The magnificent seven”. A group of professional mercenaries taking upon themselves the arduous task of training a group of non-military citizens in martial art. Obviously, this army of simpletons grows out to be the most ruthless killing machine ever. In recent years we’ve been spoiled with epic battles as seen in “300” and “The Lord of the Rings”. Unfortunately, the battles here aren’t as overwhelming as the latter. And you can also feel a bit of the atmosphere from the movie “Gladiator” in this mythical spectacle.
But unlike “The legend of Hercules” you can see some old timers at work here. Like John Hurt who plays the part of Lord Cotys, king of Thrace. He wants Hercules and his henchmen to defeat a violent warlord. And Ian McShane and Rufus Sewell play respectively Amphiaraus and Autolycus, two companions of Hercules. Each of them are veterans who bring some drama into the story. And there’s also some humor to enjoy. The funny dialogues between the group members you definitely can call successful. Fortunately they didn’t end up with a type of Bud Spencer parody full of silly jokes. The final result is a perfect balance between light-hearted humor and spectacular action. So if you’re a fan of straightforward action with a humorous wink, you’ll like this Hercules !