Paramount
July 30, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

In Brett Ratner’s adaptation of Steve Moore’s 2008 graphic novel, Hercules, as played by Dwayne Johnson, is a world-weary mercenary who allows others to believe — and perhaps embellish — his heroic tales. Travelling with a Magnificent Seven-style band of warriors who are lured by riches to defend the beleaguered kingdom of Lord Cotys (John Hurt), the mighty man is still haunted by nightmares of the three-headed Cerberus, and he mourns the murder of his wife and children — though there are those who whisper that he himself killed them.

When Johnson is wearing the head of the slayed Nemean lion in battle, walloping enemies with his tree-trunk sized club, and heaving charging horses to the ground with remarkable ease, he’s in his Rock comfort zone. But as a tortured hero hampered by self-doubt, Johnson labors. He’s aiming for the gravitas of Russell Crowe in Gladiator and Gerard Butler in 300, but he races through the moments where Hercules has to be vulnerable or jaded. And since he’s the lone person in B.C. Thrace — a city-state populated by Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes, and Rufus Sewell — who didn’t go to British boarding school, his careful enunciation sounds especially out of place. Hercules might seem like the perfect role for The Rock, but the movie really needs a better Dwayne Johnson. C?

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