Die-hard fans of Gladiator and 300 would do well to stay away from director Brett Ratner’s Hercules, a trashy swords-and-sandals saga based on the brawny titular hero of Greek mythology. Ratner possesses neither Ridley Scott’s refined storytelling skills, nor Zack Snyder’s sharp sense of imagery, but like Bollywood’s very own Rohit Shetty, he knows how to deliver a masala movie with clap-trap lines and a hero worth rooting for.
Borrowing the wig Arnold Schwarznegger wore in Conan The Barbarian, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson steps up to play Hercules, who according to legend is the demigod son of Zeus and the slayer of such deadly beasts as the nine-headed water-serpent Hydra, and the Nemean Lion whose head he wears in battle. Except that there may be little or no truth to those lofty stories.
Based on a popular comic book series, Ratner’s film suggests that for all his strength and courage, Herc is actually a mercenary warrior who uses inflated tales of his godly parentage and epic feats to intimidate his enemies. In this particular adventure, he’s hired, along with his half-dozen comrades, to defend the kingdom of Thrace from an evil warlord and his possibly supernatural army; a task they accomplish only to discover that things aren’t as simple as they’d been led to believe.
Next thing you know, Johnson is pummeling the bad guys with his tree-trunk sized club, lifting up charging horses and chucking them to the ground, and in one climatic moment, he even topples a towering statue made of stone with his bare hands. Ratner keeps the pace frantic, and punctuates the action with cheesy dialogues that somehow work because Johnson and his co-stars deliver them with panache. The plot barely hangs together, and the big CGI battle scenes are staged without much slickness, but the leading man at the heart of this film has both the charisma and the action chops to distract you from these hiccups. He’s surrounded by an ensemble of weighty ‘actor’ types – John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes and Ian McShane – but this is The Dwayne Johnson Show and he comes away without embarrassing himself, even if he does labor through some of the more emotional scenes.
Packed with not-too-bad 3D effects – arrows whizzing out of the screen, dangerous creatures lunging at you – and unapologetically embracing its B-movie ambitions, Hercules is watchable and occasionally good fun too. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five. Just don’t go in with Gladiator-level expectations.

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