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Article by Teddy Durgin

'Hercules' flexes plenty of muscle...and fun!

Finally, at long last, we have an honest-to-goodness, bona fide surprise this summer! The new "Hercules" movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a fun, entertaining, high-spirited romp of a sword-and-sandals flick. Actually, I'm not sure sandals are The Rock's footwear of choice here. But, man, does he wield a sword ... and an ax ... and a club ... and a spear ... and a shield ... and some daggers. The man's a walking arsenal, I tell ya! OK, yes, the movie is also cheesy, overplayed and outlandishly violent. But, in this case, those are also virtues to be enjoyed. I didn't think it was possible to get up for another movie with this title character, not after the debacle that was "The Legend of Hercules" earlier in the year starring Kellan Lutz, the beefcake third-stringer from the "Twilight" movies. Let's be clear here - the two films shouldn't even be mentioned together in the same breath. Johnson's "Hercules" is a legitimate, big-screen motion-picture production. The other film is a cheapie B movie on par with dreck seen on the SyFy channel like "Sharknado" and "Dinoquake" and so forth. Johnson plays Hercules as a mercenary who travels the lands of Ancient Greece fighting battles and scoring paydays for him and his merry band of five cutthroats who include Ian McShane's fatalist seer Amphiaraus and Rufus Sewell's quippy blade-man Autolycus. They are hired by the beautiful Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) to save her father Lord Cotys' (John Hurt) kingdom of Crete from the marauding Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Soon, though, Hercules and his pals learn that they just might be fighting for the wrong side, and the choice must then be made between money and honor. At the same time, there is a running through line of "Is Hercules a myth that can be used to bring hope to the hopeless?" or "Is there danger in those who pervert long-cherished myths at the expense of reality?" There's also a lot of talk of destiny and following one's true path and fighting for noble causes. The usual stuff we've come to expect with these kinds of flicks. But, most of the time, director Brett Ratner and his cast and crew find the right balance between cheesy hokum and genuine popcorn thrills. I really enjoyed this one, and I think you will, too. And don't be surprised if the next time you have a baseball bat or a trash can lid or a steak knife in your hand, you feel strangely compelled to yell out, "I ... AM ... HERCULES!!!"

"Hercules" is rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language, and partial nudity.


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