Review: Renny Harlin's 'The Legend of Hercules' a Dull, Lazy Knockoff
by Jeremy Kirk
January 10, 2014
It's awesome the amount of brawn is working over brain in The Legend of Hercules, the latest sword-and-sandals actioner - Sure, that's still a genre - which just so happens to be directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight). Harlin is a man who made similarly brawn-over-brain actioners all through the 1990's, movies which hit that awesome meter pretty much throughout. Now he makes WWE movies. Unfortunately what hobbles the enjoyment in The Legend of Hercules is not the action, but how awkwardly and lazily the movie rips off other, better films. It's just a lame knockoff of 300, Gladiator, and Braveheart, and no amount of chest meat Kellan Lutz puffs out can distract us from that. More below!
Lutz plays the mythical half-man, half-God son of Zeus, birthed to Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) and King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins). Pay attention. There's gonna be a test, but it's multiple choice. Just like Mythology class. Amphitryon is a pretty ruthless tyrant, mistreating the people whose kingdom he's overtaken. Alcmene, tired of the life she was wed into, makes a pact with the Gods. Zeus will give her a son, Hercules, and a man who will rise up and overthrow the King.
However, at 20 years old, after he becomes the massively jacked Lutz, Amphitryon and his other son, his real son, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), betray Hercules, which lands the demigod into slavery. Meanwhile, Iphicles is planning to marry Hebe (Gaia Weiss), who is actually Hercules' one true love…
You know what, it really doesn't matter. The screenplay is such a patch-worked mess of derivative ideas and shoehorned mythology that it's difficult to ever really know what's going on here. Four names are credited to the screenplay here - Harlin included - but there's no telling who's to blame for what here. Nothing is fully developed, though. The Nemean lion makes an early appearance and only seems utilized here to push forward the CW-level familial drama. The story becomes so convoluted that you just want to be swept up in some epic action.
Yeah, it's kind of in there. As lazy as Harlin's films have gotten on the whole, they still find a way to pack a little bit of punch in the action department. To look at the first, tracking shot of battle in The Legend of Hercules, you would think the film was an awesome, pleasant surprise. It's a shot that takes a different angle on the broad, epic battle developing shot. It's different than those wide overheads Peter Jackson made famous, although The Legend of Hercules does have a hint of Lord of the Rings in its designs.
Unfortunately, the story begins shortly after that first shot, and it's off to the dullville races, but Harlin's action chops creep back in from time to time. The stunt work and creativity in some of the sequences does little, however, to work against how much it all looks like 300, Harlin using every trick from speed ramping to slow motion to 3D gimmick throwing arrows and shit at the screen. Really, 3D gimmicky tricks in 2014?
There's even less to say regarding the acting here, Lutz trying to inch out a shred of charisma. Unfortunately he gives off too much of a deer-in-headlights performance, a deer whose head is on top of massively jacked body. Did I mention Lutz is jacked in this movie? Because he fucking is. The rest, Adkins et al, give suitably B-level performances.
Credit should go to the MVP in The Legend of Hercules, an actor who I didn't even realize was in the film until he showed up on screen. Johnathon Schaech - You know, the lead singer in That Thing You Do! - plays the leader of a group of mercenaries, the bad guys in case you're still caring about plot. The cornrows on his head and the oddly dark complexion to his skin to make him look more Egyptian - The character is Egyptian - are almost as bombastic as Schaech's performance itself.
The rest of The Legend of Hercules could have used some of that bombastic, ridiculous playfulness that seems to have completely dried up. The film is too serious. It tries to be too serious, at least. But the director's style doesn't jive with it one bit, and it really doesn't help that it's ripping off so many other movies. That cannot be stressed enough. The Legend of Hercules is a forgettable, lazy waste of an action movie that isn't even deserving of some of the talent involved. But those cornrows.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10
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