Ben-Hur (2016)

(On Cable TV, June 2017) Ugh. Everyone knows that the risk in remaking a classic film is producing a remake so bad that it disappears without a blip. With Ben-Hur, the remake is dull enough that it self-erases from mind moments after the movie wraps up. Other than two standout sequences (the galley sequence and the remake of the classic chariot race), much of Ben-Hur is undistinguishable from so many other recent sword-and-sandal movies … and considering that there haven’t been that many of them, it’s already telling. But director Timur Bekmambetov’s strength is in strong visuals and action sequences, so the film only really comes alive during those moments—the rest is straight-up historical drama, loosely coupled with biblical content. At least it features a few largely unknown cast, the best of which (Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer) have reasonable chances of landing roles in better movies. At least there are a few action sequences to make things worthwhile: While overly and obviously CGI-ed, the chariot race is frantic and event-filled (too much so at times—longer shots would have helped), while the galley sequence is one set of nightmares piled upon others. I would seriously recommend fast-forwarding the movie until you hit those sequences—the rest can barely be recalled after watching the film.

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