Review: Hercules (2014)

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Director: Brett Ratner
Screenwriters: Ryan Condal & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Reece Ritchie & Rebecca Ferguson
Runtime: 98 min // Certificate: 12a


Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) is the ultimate hack, though even his worst films have the occasional redeeming quality. His latest effort, Hercules, is no different to the rest of his oeuvre, but by some minor miracle it might well be his most entertaining film to date; though I do admit that that’s not exactly hard…

Set in Ancient Greece, Ratner’s Hercules sees the son of Zeus (Johnson; Pain & Gain) working as a mercenary who performs tasks for money. There is some debate as to whether or not Hercules is actually a demi-God or just an ordinary man, though the legend of his infamous “Twelve Labours” is known throughout the land. When Hercules and his fellow mercenaries are asked to help Lord Cotys (Hurt; Alien) of Thrace to defend his city and his people from an evil warlord, they jump at the chance to earn some extra money and spread the legend even further, only to soon discover that not all is as it seems in Thrace and that Cotys hasn’t been completely honest with them.

Now, the term “so bad it’s good” gets thrown around much too often these days and it’s often used to absolve some truly miserable films of their sins. In the case of Hercules, however, I can think of no better description. It’s ridiculous; it’s cheap, it’s cheesy and it often feels like a high-budget pantomime, yet despite all of this it’s still thoroughly entertaining. For just over 90 minutes, Ratner takes the audience on a predictable but guiltily enjoyable adventure which harks back to the good old days of Jason and the Argonauts and Conan the Barbarian without any pretentions whatsoever.

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Hercules is loud, brash and in your face, and no-one’s going to be taking home any Academy Awards for their roles in it anytime soon, but as a nice slice of fun, mindless entertainment, you can do a hell of a lot worse. John Hurt is camp to the Nth degree, Johnson is perfect as the aggressive, muscle-bound demi-God and Ratner is clearly having the time of his laugh behind the camera and does his best to ensure that the audience has a good old laugh too. Sure, the film might be charmless, classless and camper than Christmas, but what’s wrong with that? The fact that it manages to be even half as enjoyable as it does is surprising in itself, so you can’t really complain, particularly when you consider how bad it could’ve been…

Put it this way; if someone told you that Brett Ratner was going to direct a film in which The Rock plays Hercules while John Hurt scowls and frowns a lot, you’d know exactly what to expect. Hercules delivers on those expectations, somehow manages to exceed them, and doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. It’s decent, inoffensive, throwaway fun that will keep you entertained on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If that’s all you want then hey, Hercules is – and I never thought I’d say this – well worth a look. No, I’m serious… honestly!

Oh, and it’s also about a million times better than The Legend of Hercules, though to be fair, so is a steel-toe-boot in the knackers.