Film Review: Hercules

Hercules

Brett Ratner’s version of Hercules is an amusing action romp that distinguishes itself from previous versions of the myth.

Hercules has built up a fierce reputation by completing the legendary twelve labours. Hercules and his team of warriors are sought out by the King of Thrace, who requires help to defend his land and his people…

The most striking aspect of Hercules is how the film takes a well-known mythological character and places him in a plausible environment. Unlike previous version of the myth, Brett Ratner’s film eschews the fantastical elements of the Hercules story, positing him instead as a character that could have actually existed.

Based on Steve Moore’s graphic novel, Hercules offers a revisionist account of the myth. The supernatural aspects of his quests are explained in a plausible fashion, whilst even the protagonist himself makes light of some of the more exaggerated aspects of his feats. In this way, Hercules offers something different to previous cinematic adaptations.

The film follows fairly conventional action adventure tropes in terms of narrative and characters. The vein of humour that runs through the film is most welcome; this is a version of Hercules that can laugh at itself, to a certain extent. The comedy is a good fit for this non-supernatural account. Nevertheless, when the film makes attempts at gravitas, it can feel a little hollow.

Action in the film is good. Many of the scenes rely on the physicality of the actors, and in this respect Hercules is well cast. The set pieces are well executed in terms of scale, although some of the effects look less authentic. Dwayne Johnson makes a likeable hero, whilst John Hurt brings some gravity as Lord Cotys.

Hercules is perhaps not a definitive version of the myth. Although the film may not be as memorable as the legend itself, it is nevertheless an entertaining watch.

Film Review: Tower Heist

Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist is a moderately entertaining crime caper. It is unlikely to have audiences crying with laughter, but it won’t have them weeping with despair either.

Josh Kovacs is a manager at The Tower, a luxurious apartment block in Manhattan that caters for wealthy clients. When the owner of the penthouse is arrested, staff at The Tower realise that their entire pension was tied up in his failed Ponzi scheme. Having lost their savings, a group of staff conspire to rob Arthur Shaw’s apartment…

Tower Heist is moderately funny, but not an out and out comedy. The film combines humour with action and the traditional sensibilities of a heist movie. As such, Ratner’s film does get increasingly convoluted. There is nothing particularly illuminating about the narrative, but it sufficiently entertains viewers.  Syrupy sentiment is laid on a little thick with the doorman strand. There are a few lulls during the course of the 104-minute movie, however momentum is recovered when necessary.

Some of Tower Heist‘s dialogue leaves something to be desired. The jokes do not always hit the mark; there is a definite feeling that the film would have been more enjoyable with a more humorous script. At times the screenwriters think too little of their audience, over emphasising details of the plan for example. Nevertheless, there are some good scenes in the film.

There are some resounding parallels between the Arthur Shaw character and Bernie Madoff. Like Madoff, Shaw is living the high life, seemingly without financial worries. And like Madoff, Shaw becomes the target of an investigation and has lost his investors millions. There is no problem with using current affairs in a film such as Tower Heist, except that nothing particularly striking or intelligent it done with it. The character, like a number of others, is rather one dimensional.

Tower Heist features a cast of well-known actors, but some mixed performances. Téa Leoni stands out as one of the better performers. Ben Stiller brings little to the straight-man role, while Casey Affleck is not utilised that effectively. Matthew Broderick fairs a bit better, and Michael Peña brings humour to the fold. It is refreshing to see Eddie Murphy in a costume-free comedy role, although he should have been given more amusing lines.

Tower Heist is unlikely to be remembered in a few years. An adequately entertaining movie with no real lasting impression.