Direction: Brett Ratner
Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane
Rating: *** 1/2
Although it doesn’t come close to matching the splendour of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), this account of the larger-than-life exploits of the Greek demigod is one of the finer sword-and-sandals spectacles in recent memory. Combining visceral action with involving dramatics, Hercules is brisk, breezy fun.
Also watch: Hercules review
Often wrongly maligned as director, Brett Ratner (Rush Hour trilogy) quickly sketches the protagonist’s background as a tormented hero struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife and three children.
Adapted from the graphic novel by the late Steve Moore, the opening montage features the titular strongman (Johnson, aka The Rock) slaying lions, hydras and a gargantuan boar as part of his arduous tasks.
Next: Herc and his band of merry mercenaries take up arms with the king of Thrace (John Hurt, impressive as ever). They help train his ragtag army to vanquish a rival warlord.
The narrative brims with a wealth of visual flourishes, courtesy legendary cinematographer Dante Spinotti. Even the capabilities of 3D are optimally utilized.
Staged across sprawling landscapes, the battles are choreographed with panache. A dose of humour is occasionally injected to relieve the tension generated by the gritty goings-on.
Ian McShane is delightfully deadpan as the spear-wielding soothsayer who wrongly foretells his own death on several occasions. The rest of Hercules’ followers include his teenage nephew, a mute orphan-turned-deadly warrior and an Amazonian archer (Ingrid Bolso Berdal). A pleasant surprise among the week’s releases, Hercules is highly recommended.