3 StarsIt’s summertime blockbuster season at the multiplexes, so of course it is also time for the seasonal mock-busters from The Asylum. July sees the forthcoming release of Hercules starring former WWE sensation and now full-blown movies star Dwayne Johnson inhabiting a role previously outfitted to the likes of Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. The accompanying knockoff titled Hercules Reborn is actually quite good, enough so that with a few more solidly watchable outings like this, Asylum may be able to graduate from their messy rep as the house of low-budget guilty pleasure regurgitations into Lionsgate territory.
Arius (Christian Oliver) lives in the peaceful town of Ennos, ruled by a fair King and Queen. Unbeknownst to the ruling party are the mutinous plans of General Nikos (Dylan Vox) to assassinate the King and take the throne for himself. In the midst of the ensuing massacre Arius flees Ennos in the hopes of enlisting the mythical figure Hercules (John Hennigan) in his aid to get back his kidnapped bride and claim Ennos from it’s new maniacal King Nikos. Aiding Arius in his quest is his best friend and ever cynical companion Hollis (James Duval), who sees nothing but a fools adventure and certain death in store. Hercules is now a functioning alcoholic who can barely stand, he’s like the Barbarian version of Nic Cage’s character in Leaving Las Vegas.
Herc has got problems you see, he murdered his wife and children in an unfortunate rage a decade earlier and his proceeding guilt has led him to isolation and near desolation. Arius convinces the fallen warrior that he can reclaim his former glory and seek revenge against Nikos for a past grudge, if he stays sober long enough to join them in storming the city walls.
Hercules Reborn has been written by Jose Montesinos (American Brawler, Barely Legal) and Jim Hemphill. The story is constructed nicely with nods to Conan and other Sword and Sandal flicks. Director Nick Lyon (Bullet) keeps things moving along at a nice pace and proves adapt as using his Moroccan shooting locations to full advantage. This is one of the most professional pieces of filmmaking to come out of The Asylum.
Credit must be given to former WWE wrestler John Morrison, who is confusingly billed as that on the cover-art but the on screen credit reads John Hennigan. In any event he is a great new screen presence and convincingly carries the action and humorous elements of his admittedly limited part. Duval is good as Hollis and Christian Oliver makes for relatable lead. Looking up Hennigan’s future projects he has no further Hercules installments lined up. That is a pity because if done like this the producers could launch their first franchise.
Director: Nick Lyon
Stars: John Hennigan, Christian Oliver, James Duval