Classical Greek mythology gets a campy, testosterone-pumped rewrite in Brett Ratner’s swaggering swords‘n’sandals romp.
Based on the comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, this laboured re-imaging of the demigod son of Zeus boasts slow-motion action sequences reminiscent of 300, albeit with reduced on-screen bloodshed to secure a 12A certificate.
But parents should exercise caution. These ancient civilisations are predisposed to outbursts of bad language that escape the wrath of Olympus.
The minds of screenwriters Ryan J Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos remain in the gutter when it comes to the two-dimensional women that festoon the screen.
These wenches swoon helplessly in Hercules’ presence or encourage his valour with the promise of personal services.
‘You think you know the truth about Hercules? You know nothing...’ growls the narrator as he transports us back to a time when power was seized with swords rather than diplomacy.
Hercules (Johnson) has completed his 12 labours, which included slaying a hydra and defeating the mighty Nemean Lion, and now this muscle-bound man of myth roams the land as a mercenary for hire.
His band of travelling companions includes soothsayer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), warrior Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), mute orphan Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amazonian archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and silver-tongued storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who is also Hercules’ cousin.
Lord Cotys (John Hurt), the ailing King of Thrace, promises Hercules and his company their weight in gold if they can train his farm hands to become an army and bring to an end a bitter civil war with rebel leader Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann).
Directed with destruction-oriented bombast by Bret Ratner (Rush Hour), Hercules is undecided whether to take itself seriously or descend into tongue-wedged pantomime.
Certainly, Sewell and McShane seem to be having a ball and Johnson trots out a couple of droll one-liners.
The set pieces are orchestrated at full pelt with a generous three-figure body count but once the screaming ends, deficiencies in the script are exposed.
When the truth about Hercules’ tragic past is revealed, Johnson’s wail of anguish in close-up epitomises the film’s heavy-handed approach to matters of the heart: more volume, less palpable emotion.