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Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Peter Mullan, Rebecca Ferguson, Axsel Hennie
Director: Brett Ratner
Sometimes a line of dialogue from a movie proves to be almost irresistible as a review.
Happily this blithe blend of super spectacle and sly tongue-in-cheek humour (Think Cleopatra, only much, much bigger meets Carry on Cleo, notably John Hurt, splendidly camp as the rotten king of Thrace) never merits the line “What a load of crap!” uttered with force after director Brett Ratner kicks off with the lurid backstory of his hunky hero and his success with his legendary labours, including slashing the many-headed hydra in a swamp and sorting out a giant bear and a huge lion.
Another early line, “You think you know the truth about him. You know nothing!” to describe the half-human half-immortal demigod is far more pertinent. This is Hercules, graphic novel style, adapted – and enjoyably, too – by screenwriters Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos from a comic book reworking – and which owes much more to enjoyable hokum than to history and/or legend.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the light-hearted approach, seasoned with comedy and cheerfully modern dialogue that would be all Greek to any ancient Greek, works well thanks to Ratner’s spot-on direction, magnificent movie magic that creates giant creatures, even more gigantic armies and some of the most entertaining sword-and-sandal action ever shown. Thousands of flaming arrows fill the screen, hundreds of hairless grey corpses rise from under the earth ready to die again, burning statues are toppled and chariots galore fill the screen.
Action addicts are perfectly catered for.
There’s plenty of plot, of course, as Hercules and his band of fellow mercenaries set out to save the kingdom of Thrace, Our Hero, despite suffering recurring nightmares about the deaths of his family, already having proved his invincibility when, following the line “He despises pirates!’ he cheerfully disposes of five of them with a single blow.
It says much for the actors that they never allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the special effects. Instead, they carry on regardless to good effect. Johnson, appropriately rock hard, is well cast and convincing as the son of Zeus, leaving major acting, as we know it, Jim, to British thespians Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes.
Lashings of action, chariots of fear and a load of brawls put over with infectious enthusiasm and, frequently, given the lively lunacy of the proceedings, with impressively straight faces to create splendid and exciting genre-mocking entertainment without any trace of intellectual strain.
USA 2014. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour.
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 26 Jul 2014