Facts and Figures
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Friday 27th June 1997
Box Office Worldwide: $243.4M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Internationa
Production compaines: Radical Studios, Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Flynn Picture Company
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 43 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Far more entertaining than it has any right to be, this is a big, messy blockbuster retelling of the Greek myth that thankfully has a sharp sense of humour and some surprising twists up its sleeve. The cast is also packed with veteran performers who know how to make the most of some eyebrow-raising innuendo, generating intrigue while keeping the audience laughing with them rather than at them.
The premise takes a revisionist approach, grounding the legend of the demigod Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) in real stories that have been exaggerated by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who travels with him as a kind of toga-era marketing expert. Their team of mercenaries includes wryly fatalistic seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), quick-witted blade-thrower Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), bow-wielding amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and loyal mute warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). When they're offered a fortune by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to quell a rebellion, they find themselves in the middle of a massive battle that doesn't go the way they expected. And as events take unforeseen turns, Hercules and his gang have to dig deep to turn the tide in their favour.
Johnson is a natural in the role, so massively pumped up that he looks like he could be popped with a pin. His hulking physique and just enough back-story give the character's reputation some weight, both literally and figuratively, so even if he's not half-god his achievements are still pretty impressive. (There are also plenty of hints that he may turn out to be a god after all.) And the surrounding characters add to this with cleverly written roles that are expertly played by British scene-stealers Hurt, McShane, Sewell, Mullan and Fiennes. McShane is so good that he essentially walks off with the whole movie. But relative newcomers Ritchie, Hennie and Berdal more than hold their own.
Brett Ratner directs the film with nonstop energy, blending rousingly coherent action with genuinely funny wit to make every set piece thoroughly entertaining. Yes, with a cast of men in skimpy miniskirts and women in even less, this is still a very silly movie, sometimes dipping into dopey slapstick or corny melodrama. And some of the effects work feels rushed. But the 3D trickery hilariously throws a steady stream of pointy things into our faces. And the snappy banter is knowingly ridiculous. The film also rockets along at a lively pace that never lets the audience pause for breath, forcing us to grimace at the brutality and laugh away the jokes. It might even have a thing or two to say about manufactured fame. Although the main point is to sit back and have fun.