If there is one thing to come out of this Renny Harlin clunker, it is that we have now entered the age when $70 million is considered a medium budget entry for this type of fare. This is worrying because as beautiful as some of the location work looks, it is impossible not to wonder where all this money went. It is not a film packed with big name talent; Kellan Lutz as the Titular Demi-God may be known to Twi-hards but Kenneth Cranham doesn’t seem like the type to pull in the teen audience this curiously bloodless affair is trying to court.
Sean Hood’s and Daniel Giat’s script plays fast and loose with the legend, ignoring the 12 labours to concentrate on a love triangle whilst shoehorning in elements of Gladiator. The only nod is to the slaying of the Nemean Lion, but the unfortunate cgi-rendered beast looks more like Clarence the Cross Eyed than the King of the Jungle. With such rich source material at your disposal, it seems tantamount to heresy to turn this into a by the numbers historical action-romance.
Renny Harlin, whose CV is beginning to look more like a drawn out suicide note than an oeuvre, foregoes his usual efficient visual style to adopt a 300 and TV Spartacus look, full of slo-mo and hyper stylised visuals that seemed dated the minute Zach Snyder’s film left the cinema. Harlin may not be one of the greats, but he knows how to depict action cleanly and coherently. This is the cinematic equivalent of watching your mum twerk on the dance-floor, although slightly less compelling.
The big vacuum here is Hercules himself. Born of the Gods, lover of women, leader of men, you need an actor of real stature and heft to command attention. Irresistible to Hebe (Weiss), despite her being earmarked for marriage to Iphicles (Garrigan), who looks to take his half brother out of the picture. Even Step Dad, King Amphitryon (Adkins) can’t stand him, after catching his missus in the sack with an invisible Zeus he bears a cuckolded disdain for our brawny lunk. Set up as hissable villains, it is hard not to root for them in the face of Kellan Lutz' wretched acting.
Lutz looks like the type of blonde, over muscled hick that should be in a Dukes of Hazzard remake, looking more like he is auditioning for a Chippendales Toga party routine and so blandly naive you almost expect the Argos equivalent of Ratzo Rizzo to start pimping him out in the Pantheon. I’m not saying Lutz is wooden but his blood type is sap. When he gets together with Hebe it looks for all the world like a deleted sex scene from Lord of the Rings.
The film's greatest achievement is to be only 90 minutes long and appear to go on forever. If they ever update the labours, then watching The Legend of Hercules should be a shoo-in. It doesn’t help that the film seems to have been shot for an adult rating before deciding to neuter any of the violence for a mass audience. 300 had many faults but it embraced the brutality with vigour; aspiring to meet that and failing just shows what a dispiriting endeavour this is.
Like a steroid assisted episode of Hollyoaks, this is woeful fare. It is a long while since Renny Harlin showed promise with Prison. His last watchable film was The Long Kiss Goodnight, which seems more like a showcase for Shane Black’s schtick than an auteur effort.
To quote a film that Hercules so dearly wants to be, “are you not entertained?" No, no we are not.
By Jason Abbey
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