Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, Peter Mullan
Steve Moore (Radical Comic "Hercules"), Admira Wijaya (Writer), Ryan Condal (Screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (Screenplay)
There's something to be said for a movie that relaxes into itself and is content to be nothing more than a good old-fashioned popcorn flick. Such is the case with Brett Ratner's Hercules, a film inspired by Steve Moore's The Thracian Wars comic series and starring the perfectly cast Dwayne Johnson as the demigod from Greek mythology.
It should be said that Ratner's telling of the tale is a definite re-imagining of the mythological tale and essentially serves as a humanizing of the epically powerful, bearded hero. Ratner tones down the story's more supernatural elements in favor of a more relatable tale that works far more than one might expect largely owing to Johnson's appealing performance and Ratner's energized yet modest approach to the story.
In Hercules, Hercules isn't too far removed from the film version of G.I. Joe in that he's actually a "we" as Dwayne Johnson's truth before the legend heroic figure is joined in his exploits by a team of mercenaries that includes Amphiarus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), and Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) whose exploits are widely promoted by the scrawnier but enthusiastic Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), whose accounts of their exploits leads to an accepted assignment from Cotys (John Hurt), the King of Thrace, who promises the mercenaries their leader's weight in gold if they will train the King's army. The story becomes, rather unfortunately, a more ordinary action story involving one last score and one wrongly accused hero's opportunity to get out of the business and live a peaceful life.
It shouldn't be surprising that Dwayne Johnson is well suited to portray Hercules, especially given the decision to make the hero less demigod and more simply a man who makes the choice to take heroic actions. Johnson's success in Hollywood has largely been borne out of just this type of performance and his turn here should please the vast majority of his fans. Johnson has the swagger necessary to convince as the man who essentially serves as the public face of this band of mercenaries, yet he also has an almost "aw shucks" quality about him that makes his portrayal as "just one of the team" equally believable.
The film also gets quite a bit of weight by having for the most part British thespians as the supporting players with John Hurt, Ian McShane, and Rufus Sewell all able to mine this material for every dramatic moment possible and bringing an air of the otherworldly to the proceedings that never lets you quite figure that there is a supernatural side to the story even if it is de-emphasized here.
Hercules isn't a masterpiece by a long shot. However, Ratner sets the tone early that sort of rides the line between mythological cheese and good old-fashioned popcorn flick and he for the most part keeps things moving at a brisk, entertaining pace devoid of the usual mythological self-importance that often plagues this type of film.
Instead, Hercules is simply a laid back good time with a story that's good enough to hold your attention and charismatic, tonally consistent performances that will allow you to simply escape from the woes of the world for a couple hours.
Relax, Hercules has got you covered.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic