Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hercules (2014)

Director: Brett Ratner

Notable Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann

“You want madness? Tonight a spear of flame will pierce my heart. Is that not the most insane death you’ve ever heard of?”

Outside of the first Rush Hour (which still might be more nostalgia than anything), I simply am not a fan of Brett Ratner. His output is wonky at best as a director and he may or may not be responsible for the worst X-Men film the franchise has seen thus far. He is the one reason I skipped out on Hercules in theaters to begin with and he’s the main reason I was heavily skeptical of this quirky new tale of the muscular demigod. Maybe it’s the low expectations that have softened my cynical palette, but I’m not going to lie…I whole heartedly enjoyed Hercules way more than I had any right too. I’m not going to stake a claim that this is one of the most underrated films of the year or even go as far as to call it a good film, but the combination of the screen devouring cast and the tongue in cheek approach to the story had me sold ten minutes in.

Hercules (The Rock) is not quite the indestructible hero his legend has been built up to be. In fact, he’s a mercenary teamed with a handful of skilled fighters on the run from his old home and looking for enough cash to escape his tortured past and retire where he doesn’t have to use his immense strength to continually beat things. When the opportunity arises to finally make a huge score by defeating a vicious warlord, Hercules and his team jump at the chance. Is everything as it seems in this war torn country though?

Looking at Hercules’ plot can be a bit deceiving. The film takes an almost realistic approach to its legends and proceedings and twists the myths to fit a more standard sword and sandals formula. In a way, it’s a clever concept. Yet Hercules is far from the clever film you would think it is and the way that the plot often plays out is rarely as smart as the film prides itself on being. The characters are your set of run-of-the-mill parts of a whole, the twists in the plot are predictable, and even Ratner’s direction plays it far too safe with the style that mixes a bit of 300 with a more traditional action flick. As I said before, Hercules is rarely a great (or even good) film in many of the standard ways.

That being said, Hercules is a ton of fun and utterly charming in many ways. The Rock continually showcases his immense screen presence (although his character tends to lack those moments to make the more dramatic beats work…but we do get to see him flip a horse and spout off “Fucking centaurs” so take your pick) and the rest of his supporting cast charms their way through their cut out characters. A special nod has to go to Ian McShane who essentially steals every moment he opens his mouth by delivering some of the silliest lines with such drunk conviction that one can’t help but buy into it. This is matched with a ton of fun action set pieces. Not the Hercules vs. a mythical zoo that you saw in the trailers, but more classic sword clashing and fire arrows set pieces. Nothing original, but it’s certainly fun. This is the kind of approach that Ratner and company bring to the film and even when it’s at its worst, the film at least entertains.

Lion hats are all the rage.
Perhaps my expectations were skewed by my general distaste for the director and the generally over-hyped new world of swords & sandals flicks, but I actually found Hercules to be rather fun. It’s not going to win a lot of people over as it still falters at many of the core elements of being ‘a good film,’ but the rest is just charming enough to slide by. Take it with a grain of salt and you might have some fun with it.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

1 comment:

  1. I found it to be better than you make it sound. It's quite a well achieved adventure movie in a classic fashion, very solid stuff, a lot of fun action moments and all looking stunningly thanks to the skills of italian cinematographer Dante Spinotti, who really achieves a Frazetta painting feel specially in the dungeon where Hercules is chained.