Review: The Legend of Hercules

No, the Augean stables didn’t fill up again. That smell is The Legend of Hercules.

The first of two Herculean efforts in 2014 (coming this July: Brett Ratner’s self-declared not-legendary Hercules) was in such a rush to get out of the gate first that it forgot to check the continuity, finish the visual effects, conclude half the scenes and surgically remove co-star Scott Adkin’s fists from his waist. As King Amphitryon, Adkins barks most of his dialogue behind a potent beard with one or both fists permanently planted above his muscley thighs like he expects to be spot-checked on whether or not he’s a little teapot.

But at least Scott Adkins has some sense of what’s going on here: Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules is an alarmingly cheap-looking bit of trash cinema, one that exists to exalt former Twilight star Kellan Lutz’s pecs and merely speed through the rest of it like “let’s get this over with” was a mission statement. The harried pacing, confused character development and obvious obsession with the shirtless persecution of its star could only benefit from hardcore overacting, but Adkins alone seems willing to serve up that welcome slab of juicy, heart-clogging, yet somehow life-affirming ham.

Exclusive Video: The Legend of Hercules star Kellan Lutz invites William Bibbiani to name his pecs.

King Amphitryon is a mighty douche, so his wife Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) strikes a bargain with Zeus’s wife Hera to take advantage of the gods’ open relationship. From this coupling spawns Hercules (Lutz), a dash handsome rogue who seduces the doe-eyed and unconvincing Hebe (Gaia Weiss) even though she’s betrothed to his older, sniveling half-brother, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan). So Hercules is shuffled off to war, where a cornrowed Johnathan Schaech ambushes his legion and sells Hercules into the kind of slavery where the slaves rule the masters and the gladiator duels are indistinguishable from a mud-wrestling venue on ladies night.

Before long – and make no mistake, everything in The Legend of Hercules happens before long, the movie seems desperate to end its own life quickly – Hercules has won his freedom and formed an army to fight his father and won the hearts of the people and blah-blah-blah. It’s all just an excuse to rip Kellan Lutz’s shirt off, and even that doesn’t happen often enough.

People die and no one cares. Characters arrive all of a sudden without introduction and strut around like they’ve been there all along. Dresses are wet before the actresses step in a lake and Hercules gets whipped multiple times with only one lash mark on his back to prove it. The Nemean lion appears in a shockingly unconvincing CGI form without any explanation as to what it is, why it matters, how its impervious hide could be skinned and cleaned so easily and worn minutes later like a jaunty shawl, where that shawl disappears to for most of the movie, how Hercules found it again and why he drops it on the ground the instant that it finally proves useful.

The Legend of Hercules ends, and then ends again in a completely different way, presumably as the result of test audiences who never felt more tested. Suffice it to say, the labors of Hercules have never been this laborious, and somewhere Kevin Sorbo, Lou Ferrigno, the ghost of Steve Reeves and even Tate Donovan are sharing an ale and high-fiving each other, confident that their legacies are secure.

William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.