Her­cules is a fun, friv­o­lous romp through myth­i­cal Greece, saved by a lik­able per­for­mance from Dwayne John­son, writes Gayle Ed­munds

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Her­cules (UIP) Direc­tor: Brett Rat­ner Fea­tur­ing: Dwayne John­son, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Joseph Fi­ennes, Ru­fus Sewell, In­grid Bolsø Berdal and Re­becca Fer­gu­son

The trou­ble with Her­cules sto­ries is that you are some­what lim­ited to hir­ing wrestlers or body builders to act in them be­cause of the sheer size of the myth­i­cal demigod. For ex­am­ple, in 1969 Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger was the big guy who came to earth in New York and “started a promis­ing ca­reer in body build­ing”.

In 1983, Lou Fer­rigno (bet­ter known for be­ing mean and green as the Hulk) did it, and now the wrestler for­merly known as The Rock is pick­ing up the Greek san­dals. Dwayne John­son is re­ally, re­ally hard to dis­like – he can’t act to save his leather skirt, but he’s got a lovely smile and he al­ways looks like he’s hav­ing a good time.

In this Brett Rat­ner ver­sion, the Greek gods are as good as imag­i­nary, and the leg­end of Her­cules has been care­fully cul­ti­vated by the big guy’s nephew and per­sonal PR agent, Io­laus (Reece Ritchie). Be­fore Her­cules and his team turn up to save the day, Io­laus has laid the ground­work of myth and won­der with fan­tas­ti­cal tales of Her­cules’ labours. This story, de­rived from a comic book se­ries, re­volves around Her­cules and his team of mer­ce­nar­ies when they are hired to quell a re­bel­lion. All is not as it seems and the swords for hire must de­cide whether to be the he­roes they sup­pos­edly are. Based on the Rad­i­cal comic book se­ries by Steve Moore, there’s a lot of hu­mour in this film, which is what saves it from be­ing a bust. Ian McShane is the seer of the team who is al­ways quick to tell every­one that his time hasn’t come, but he doesn’t know about theirs. There is also an Ama­zo­nian woman, Ata­lanta (In­grid Bolsø Berdal), who wears less than Xena: War­rior Princess did into bat­tle, but then she is a comic book hero­ine and all of them are lucky if they get just the idea of a skirt from their cre­ators.

Take Won­der Woman, for ex­am­ple. The poor woman’s al­ways wear­ing her knick­ers, which is what you get when you are dreamed up by men who draw comics. John Hurt plays the crusty, crafty old Thra­cian king who hires Her­cules, and Joseph Fi­ennes must have had a job keep­ing a straight face in front of the mir­ror in his Gre­cian robes and blond ringlet get-up as one of the other kings. Both these award win­ners, like the rest of the cast, look like they haven’t had this much fun since they read comics as teenagers.

Rat­ner can do com­edy and ac­tion, and he pulls this off eas­ily with the help of John­son. If you are a Her­cules fan, see this one, but don’t mis­take it for the other one that was re­leased this year with the sulky Kel­lan Lutz. That one was a dis­as­ter.

Dwayne John­son is re­ally hard to dis­like. He can’t act to save his leather skirt, but who cares


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