Muscular fun with 'Hercules'

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You're gonna hear him roar: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays Hercules in "Hercules" with his trademark unmodulated bullhorn voice.

Hercules spends a great deal of time debating whether the protagonist is a demigod or merely a tough guy with a good publicist. That's like arguing whether its leading man is named Dwayne Johnson or The Rock. Does it really matter? The point is he may be the first actor to be physically overqualified to play the strongman.

With his colossal physique, Johnson rocks a chariot better than Charlton Heston. OK, the wig he wears to play Hercules, apparently the same one Arnold Schwarzenegger used in Conan the Barbarian, is a little distracting. Then, again, who's looking at his head?

You never remotely believe Johnson as a personage either historical or mythic. In part, that's because he makes no attempt to modulate his WWE bullhorn of a voice. The peremptory tone almost works in the many pep talks Hercules gives in the course of the film to troops he is about to lead into battle.

Not that they need much motivation. Once the battle starts, they just stand around and watch Herc and his killer cadre (Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ian McShane, and Rebecca Ferguson) mop up the enemy.

The genre demands at least one distinguished British actor in slumming mode. In this instance, it's John Hurt as a Thracian ruler.

Hercules unfolds with big-budget visual splendor (making the Imax option a reasonable investment). The battle scenes, though rousing, fall short of epic. But it's reliably fun to watch - up until the brutish, smudgy conclusion that is more Samsonic than Herculean.

At least with this project, our Hellenic hero will gain a measure of immortality. This film will live forever on cable.

 


dhiltbrand@phillynews.com 215-854-4875 @daveondemand_tv


Hercules

Directed by Brett Ratner. With Rebecca Ferguson, John Hurt, Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Peter Mullan, Joseph Fiennes, Reece Ritchie, Aksel Hennie, Rufus Sewell, Ingrid Bolso Berdal. Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 38 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity).

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