Hercules

The old saying is true: being a legend isn't all it's cracked up to be. At least not when you're Hercules, in this case the older, sadder sort of Hercules played by Dwayne Johnson (The Other Guys), who finished his famous Twelve Labors long ago and now wanders around the Mediterranean as a mercenary for hire. Just one more big job, and he looks forward to retiring to the ends of the earth, or in this case the Black Sea, which might well have seemed like the ends of the earth to your average Greek, not that they were called Greeks yet in 358 B.C.

Now it's time to make the spell checker go crazy. Hercules travels with his friends, Autolycus (Rufus Sewell, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amphiaraus (Ian McShane, Snow White and the Huntsman), Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), and nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time).

These are all other characters from various myths, though changed around a bit in most cases. Atalanta, for example, is referred to as an Amazon and she's really, really good with a bow. Iolaus really was Hercules' nephew in the stories, and here he's learning to be a bard, which means he's good at exaggerating and making Hercules seem more intimidating. All right, he isn't good at exaggerating, but he tries. I mean, when you're starting with The Rock it can't be all that hard to add more intimidation. Amphiaraus (a king in the myths) is their resident Oracle, offering up tantalizing prophecies. You know, the usual kind that don't make sense until it's too late to do anything about them. And Tydeus (one of the Seven Against Thebes in the myths, along with Amphiaraus), is here portrayed as something between a homicidal maniac and a sympathetic victim of war. He doesn't talk much. Well, at all.

Oh, the plot. Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) is the daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt, Immortals) and she comes to Hercules with a job: stop Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann) from continuing to wage civil war against her father and Hercules will be paid his weight in gold. Now that's a lot of gold. So how can they pass it up? Hercules agrees to do what he can to train up Cotys' "army", which mainly consists of farmers at this point, after months of fighting. It seems like a pretty straightforward last job before retirement, though as in one of Iolaus' stories, things may not be exactly as simple as they seem.

I really liked the angle that they use, which is based on a Hercules comic mini-series by Steve Moore and Radical Comics, called The Thracian Wars -- Hercules is basically just a regular guy, not a demigod. That is, he might be a demigod; you can still think that if you want. But he doesn't particularly believe in his own press, and Dwayne Johnson is really pretty good at playing likable sorts of characters, very down to earth and, well, normal, even though "normal" in any sense of the word isn't really something you'd associate with any version of Hercules. And it was fun to watch,

Three and three-quarters out of five. It isn't grand cinema, but it never takes itself too seriously, either. with Ian McShane in particular adding some nice touches of humor, which he's always good at. There are good battle sequences and just enough plot to keep things interesting. Truly, a movie worthy of the legend...

Image: 
The legend takes time out to play with his cat. I mean, the Nemean Lion.

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