Demigod or not, Herc’s got the goods

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

HDwayne John­son’s ver­sion of Herc is a sim­ple mer­ce­nary whose rep­u­ta­tion has been de­lib­er­ately en­hanced by leg­end-spin­ners to sug­gest that he is the bas­tard off­spring of a mor­tal woman and the all-pow­er­ful Zeus. The leg­end is par­tic­u­larly em­bel­lished by Herc’s nephew, Io­laus (Reece Ritchie), a sto­ry­teller who func­tions less as a war­rior and more of a per­sonal publi­cist. (One ex­pects him to whip out a smart­phone and start tex­ting press re­leases at any sec­ond.) With­out the pro­pa­ganda, Her­cules is just a suc­cess­ful sol­dier, sur­rounded by a loyal en­tourage of war­riors in­clud­ing the sooth­sayer Am­phi­au­rus (a very comic Ian McShane), the mute, feral Ty­deus (Ak­sel Hen­nie), the strap­ping Ama­zon Ata­lanta (In­grid Bolso Berdal) and his knife-throw­ing BFF Au­toly­cus (Ru­fus Sewell). The beau­ti­ful Er­ge­nia (Re­becca Fer­gu­son), of the be­lea­guered Greek king­dom of Thrace, re­cruits Herc and pals to aid her frail fa­ther Lord Coys (John Hurt) to de­feat a ruth­less war­lord in com­mand of a pla­toon of cen­taurs. But in­stead of re­ly­ing on Her­cules’s demigod pow­ers, the task will re­quire train­ing an un­likely army of farm­ers and non-war­riors. Dur­ing this time, Herc’s tragic past is re­vealed, per­tain­ing to the fam­ily he once had while in the em­ploy of the sketchy king Eurys­theus (an es­pe­cially silly Joseph Fi­ennes). In adapt­ing Steve Moore’s Rad­i­cal Comics in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the leg­end, direc­tor Brett Rat­ner doesn’t over­play the athe­ism an­gle. He is, re­mem­ber, a direc­tor not given to overly chal­leng­ing ma­te­rial ( Rush Hour 1, 2 and 3). He is more in­ter­ested in re­viv­ing the beef­cake-war­rior movie for a wider au­di­ence, with­out the R-rated boob­sand-blood­spray el­e­ments of 300. In that, he is largely suc­cess­ful. There is enough wit, ac­tion and spec­ta­cle here to pass as a mod­estly en­ter­tain­ing summer di­ver­sion. ERCULES may look like just another swords-san­dals-’n’sor­cery movie, but that’s a clever bit of mis­di­rec­tion. There is pre­cious lit­tle sor­cery or godly magic here. In fact, this may be the first Her­cules movie to openly ques­tion the ex­is­tence of Zeus.

PARAMOUNT PIC­TURES

As Her­cules, Dwayne John­son nails the feats of strength so well, we can skip the air­ing of the griev­ances.

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