Best known for such stunning epics as "Fitzcarraldo" and "Aguirre: Wrath of God", Werner Herzog has spent the last decade and a half concentrating on stage work, documentaries, and guest appearances in other directors' films (most recently Harmony Korine's "Julien Donkey-Boy").
Whether this extended absence has had a negative effect is open to debate, but it can't be denied that his latest feature is a poor relation to the classics that made his name.
Set in the early 1930s, "Invincible" chronicles the life of Zishe Breitbart (Ahola), a Jewish blacksmith's son who travels from Poland to Germany to make his name as a strongman. Teaming up with legendary mesmerist Hanussen (Roth), Zishe becomes an overnight sensation. But Hitler's ascent to power convinces him that his true calling is to warn his people of the terrible danger facing them.
Hanussen - in reality a Czechoslovakian Jew who was arrested and executed once his true identity was revealed - is a fascinating figure, but his life was far better covered by István Szabó in his 1988 biopic. And while Tim Roth's suitably hypnotic portrayal stands comparison with Klaus Maria Brandauer's, his role here is frustratingly peripheral.
This is a real shame, for real-life strongman Ahola lacks the charisma and ability to carry the film on his admittedly broad shoulders. Watching his well-meant but lumbering performance, one is inevitably reminded of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his pre-"Terminator" days. Indeed, this sluggish, overlengthy history lesson could definitely have used some of Arnie's trademark firepower.