Hercules Reborn full movie review - Surprising Well-Made Hercules Saga from The Asylum
The Asylum is known far and wide as the mock-buster movie studio. Occasionally, they turn out amusing knock-off epics so bad they are good.
In this respect, good isn't good as we know it, but it means good as guilty pleasure. You watch them; shake your head in disbelief, and laugh because you're embarrassed to say you had so much fun. "Rise of the Zombies" director Nick Lyon's "Hercules Reborn" is an Asylum release, but this peplum differs from the usual nonsense that this notorious straight-to-video company cranks out with punctual regularity as its blockbuster counterparts appear in theaters. The year 2014 may well go down in history as the year of Hercules. Kellan Lutz incarnated a young Hercules in Renny Harlin's "The Legend of Hercules," and now brawny WWE wrestler John Hennigan, a.k.a. John Morrison, plays the Grecian strongman after he married and ascended the throne. Hennigan is older than Lutz's youthful Hercules, and he resembles Dwayne Johnson's forthcoming Hercules with his long hair and bad attitude. The son of Zeus had it easy before he became a monarch. As the action unfolds, Hercules kills his wife and son in an atmospheric opener. Afterward, in the shadows, an anonymous individual appears with a flask in his hands. No, neither Lyon nor "The Trouble with Truth" scenarist Jim Hemphill reveals this darkly-clad fellow's identity, but everything looks ominous. Clearly, Hercules has been wronged in the way typical of sword and sandal movies. The duplicitous villain tampered with his wine. Hercules resorts to wine to drown his tragic memories of fratricide and settles into oblivion.
Meantime, an ambitious but unscrupulous general, Nikos (Dylan Vox of "Apocalypse Pompeii"), usurps the king and queen of Enos when they refuse to launch an attack on a nearby mining village wallowing in wealth that the general insists they take. Nikos argues that Enos must recover its former glory and attacking this village will restore the kingdom. Moreover, not only does Nikos order the murders of King Demetrius (Ben Chagra Khalid) and Queen Evenya (Aurelie Armelle Simone Chatellier), but he also chains up beautiful Princess Theodora (Christina Ulfsparre of "Sleeping Beauty") and lusts after her. Theodora's boyfriend Arius (Christian Oliver) flees the city at dawn with his friend Horace (James Duval of "The Doom Generation") and three others while the evil Nikos tortures the princess for Arius' whereabouts. They ride across the desert to Sagev, the City of the Lost Souls, where they believe that they will find the legendary Hercules. Nowadays, Hercules has degenerated into a hopeless alcoholic, but he rescues our heroes when city authorities arrest them. Later, we learn?not surprisingly?that the treacherous Nikos was behind the plot when Hercules killed his family in a violent, drug-induced rage. Nikos put the potion into his wine. Hercules joins Arius and company, helps them cross the desert back to their hometown, and proves his mettle in sword to sword combat. Hercules is more of a victim than a Spartan superstar. Despite his super human strength, the son of Zeus can be fooled. Our heroes are captured when they come home and Nikos pours the same potion down his sword into the captive strongman's mouth. Indeed, Hercules isn't perfect in this adventure, and this makes all the difference in this insightful as well as offbeat interpretation.
The Asylum has clearly surpassed itself with "Hercules Reborn." Lyon doesn't pull any punches in the gritty combat scenes, and men with sharp-edged knives carve bloody gashes into other men's throats without blinking. You won't find any supernatural beasts skulking around the landscape. Ostenisbly, this is a serious but straightforward saga that redeems the strongman. The Moroccan locale substitutes admirably for Greece. Nikos is a villain on the level of Herod. When he demands that the princess reveal the whereabouts of her boyfriend, he swears to slay every mother and child in the city until she relents and coughs up the information. The combat scenes are vigorously down, but the acting is below average. The cast is decked out in reasonably convincing period apparel, but their characters loom larger than their performances. Hennigan has the physique but not the charisma. Incredible as it may seem, "Hercules Reborn" is believable. Nobody does anything that a body builder couldn't do, and our heroes get smeared in their own blood and gore before the sun sets on the villains. Furthermore, Lyon is an accomplished enough filmmaker that "Hercules Reborn" doesn't look like a grade Z rip-off. Lyon keeps the action moving swiftly enough so that neither the heroes nor the villains choke on their own exposition. James Duval emerges as the most personable thespian. No, "Hercules Reborn" isn't a classic, but it isn't the schlock that I fully expected it to be coming from the Kingdom of Schlock.