Hercules review: Here's the beef!

Hercules - trailer
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Director: Brett Rattner
Cert: 12A
Genre: Adventure
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes
Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins

It was impossible not to smirk upon hearing Irina Shayk, girlfriend of Cristiano Ronanldo, say that she had no problem taking her kit off for her (nano-second long) appearance in Hercules, because it is "art".

With the best will in the world, we're not even sure if Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Tower Heist, Horrible Bosses) believes his movies are art. Indeed, the relentlessly larky tone of Hercules suggests that nobody but Ms Shayk – not even the film's coterie of British luvvies and classy Nordic exports – was thinking "art".

Adapted from the late Steve Moore's graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, the second Hercules film of 2014 aims for silly and, for the most part, gets there. The story is a half-hearted retread of Gladiator, played for kitsch and laughs with a reasonably interesting riff borrowed from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Cue dialogue like: "Become the legend!" and "Civilisation is too civilised for us now".

Thus, Dwayne Johnson’s Herc isn’t actually an immortal demi-god but an ace man (and woman) manager, with a high-performing team of warriors including Rufus Sewell’s Cynical One, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal’s Amazonian One, Aksel Hennie’s Psychopathic One and, best of all, Ian McShane’s totally off-form oracle.


Their Herculean deeds are embellished and disseminated by the big man’s loquacious nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), the Funny One. These are not heroic acts, it transpires, but paid assignments.

Their latest job sees the effective mercenary gang take on an army on behalf of King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt) and his daughter, Ergenia (Wallander's Rebecca Ferguson). But, even before we get to further demythologising the mythology, all is not as it seems.

The CG is not particularly pleasing, but Hercules does include scenes wherein The Rock engages in the ancient equivalent of truck pulling. Veins pop. And here comes the roar toward the heavens. Hell, we may not much about art, but we know what we likes.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic