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Stars: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Morgan Freeman, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Sofia Black-D'Elia, James Cosmo, Pilou Asbaek, Moises Arias, David Walmsley

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Goodness knows why anyone would want to make another cinema version of Lew Wallace's hoary old epic but, having gone for it, you might at least expect them to make a decent fist of it. But this cut-to-the-bone take is more like a particularly torpid TV mini-series, with even the showcase chariot race playing third fiddle to the 1959 Oscar-winner and the (spectacular) 1925 silent film.

Huston, a less talented version of Joseph Fiennes, conveys none of the bitterness that emanated from Charlton Heston in the 1959 original, while Kebbell's Messala is just a thug. Freeman provides the only touch of class as Judah's post-slavery benefactor; maybe star power could ignite this to a degree, but Bekmambetov's hurried direction tends to flatten any hints of individual flair.

And don't get me started on the song at the end (no way Ben-Hur's credits should roll under a soppy song) or the absurdly happy ending for all concerned. In view of the lack of ambition and passion in the whole project, you have to ask: just what were they thinking?

David Quinlan

USA/Canada/Italy 2016. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Jan 2017

DVD review