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The marquee says it all: Dwayne “The Rock" Johnson as Hercules and Brett “Rush Hour" Ratner directing a film based on a comic book based on the legend of Greek demigod Hercules. The film delivers exactly what this suggests. Former wrestler Johnson is not much of an actor. So it helps that stringy wet hair partially covers his face almost throughout, thereby saving him the effort of having to emote. Ratner therefore gets away with several shots of Johnson’s astounding muscles and form, covered immodestly by a small leather skirt (and the occasional body armour).

The story starts with the myth surrounding Hercules, son of Zeus, who must fulfil 12 challenges in order to live life as a simple man. The best part of the story is recounted in a quick montage at the outset as Hercules battles mythical creatures like the Nemean Lion and the Erymanthian Boar. It is only towards the end that he displays legendary Herculean might.

In between, Hercules is portrayed as a mercenary in exile, travelling through Greece in search of gold. Accompanying him is a rag-tag group of fighters like Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) and Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and the storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who narrates grandiose tales of Hercules’ feats. Inexplicably, the principal actors have British accents, barring Johnson’s American twang.

When he accepts an assignment to help the king of Thrace (John Hurt) fend off an assault by a ruthless warlord, Hercules transforms into an astute strategist and man of war. Sandwiched between two battle tableaus, we learn the true story of Hercules. But The Rock is credible only when he is putting all his might behind swinging a club or uprooting large stone sculptures—which he does well—and not as a brooding, sensitive man.

The battle scenes between rival armies are ambitious and long, with a body count to rival 300, but Ratner’s unremarkable direction offers no surprises. A few more fights between Hercules and three-headed creatures and seven-headed serpents would have been far more fun.

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