The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules

2014, PG-13, 99 min. Directed by Renny Harlin. Starring Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Jan. 17, 2014

The end of this film was truly shocking. Not the climax, which was as dull and unimaginative as the rest of this remarkably flat movie. No, it was when the credits were finally displayed (they were not at the beginning of the film). The first one was for the director, Renny Harlin.

It took me aback. Admittedly, Harlin’s career is remarkably uneven, hitting rock bottom with Cutthroat Island (1995), one of the worst cast of all films that had not only Harlin’s then-wife Geena Davis playing the pirate queen but also Matthew Modine seeming completely out of place as a period swashbuckler. Prior to Cutthroat Island, Harlin directed Die Hard 2 (1990) and Cliffhanger (1993) – both interesting action films. Afterward, he helmed the much-maligned The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), which also stars Davis and has always had a warm spot in my heart. Since then, Harlin’s career has continued to spiral downward with 12 Rounds (2009) and 5 Days of War (2011).

However, even the worst of these usually had some fun action scenes, which is Harlin’s specialty. This origin story of the great hero Hercules (Lutz) of Greek mythology lacks even one semi-decent action piece. Boasting way too much unnecessary plot, it embarrassingly trips over itself telling its story.

The night after King Amphitryon (Adkins) vanquishes one of his enemies, Zeus impregnates his wife Queen Alcmene (McKee). The king guesses something is up but rests his hopes on his eldest son Iphicles (Garrigan), disdaining Hercules, the child of that liaison. Hercules loves Iphicles’ betrothed (Weiss), so he is sent off on a suicidal mission. Combining bits of Ben-Hur, and, especially Gladiator, our hero is captured, sold into slavery (where first he rows on a galley), and then becomes a killing star in the gladiator arena. Finally, having returned to Greece, he begins to lead a populist pro-democratic revolt against the king. All this in just four months.

It’s not only that the plot is ridiculous and the action scenes uninteresting but that Lutz is so damned pretty. In one scene, his beloved comes upon him swimming in a pool. Traditionally, it is the actress so featured. Can’t help but paraphrase Groucho Marx’s famous reaction to Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah: “No picture can hold my interest when the leading man’s bust is bigger than the leading lady’s.”

While watching it, I kept thinking this was like 47 Ronin, in which an unfortunate novice director was given a project way out of his or her reach. In no way was I prepared to learn it was the work of veteran Harlin.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Renny Harlin Films
5 Days of War
Renny Harlin directs this explosion-heavy film about the Russian-Georgian crisis of 2008.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Sept. 9, 2011

12 Rounds
WWE superstar wrestler John Cena teams with once-exciting action director Renny Harlin for this New Orleans-set action film.

Josh Rosenblatt, April 3, 2009

More by Louis Black
From the Archives: Organizing Outside the System – Deborah Shaffer and <i>The Wobblies</i>
From the Archives: Organizing Outside the System – Deborah Shaffer and The Wobblies
Our 1981 interview with the filmmaker behind the classic doc

May 3, 2022

Page Two: Row My Boat Ashore
Page Two: Row My Boat Ashore
Louis Black bids farewell in his final "Page Two" column

Sept. 8, 2017


The Legend of Hercules, Renny Harlin, Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle