Rating: 3 out of 5
Like an ancient Roman version of 2012, this disaster epic is a pure guilty pleasure, sparking plenty of laughter along with the massive effects-based carnage. It also helps that the screen is packed with muscle men in skimpy skirts. The actors dive in with gusto, adding plenty of personality to the ridiculous dialogue, while director Paul W.S. Anderson shamelessly ramps up the action mayhem.
It begins in AD 79 Britain, where Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) is on the rampage, slaughtering the entire Celtic community of young Milo (Kit Harington), who is taken to Londinium to become a gladiator. When he rises to fame, he's transferred to Pompeii, where he immediately catches the eye of young noblewoman Cassia (Emily Browning), much to the scowly disapproval of her politically active parents (Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris). An outsider among the local slaves, Milo is befriended by tough guy fellow gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). And when Corvus comes to town to claim Cassia as his bride, Milo decides to take a dangerous stand for both revenge and the girl. Meanwhile, Mount Vesuvius is rumbling, getting ready to unleash plenty of movie-style havoc.
It's impossible to watch this without thinking of the cheesy, similarly styled TV series Rome or Spartacus, with their corny melodramas, excessive violence and bare flesh. Even though this is on a much bigger scale with seriously enormous 3D special effects, it's just as cheesy. And equally entertaining as well. Harington is terrific as the hunky hero, building much stronger chemistry with the honourable Akinnuoye-Agbaje than the distressed Browning. And seasoned veterans like Harris, Moss and Sutherland clearly have a great time chomping madly on the scenery as Pompeii burns.
All of this adds layers of energy to the film, making it funny, emotional, thrilling and even politically aware. Yes, it's also utterly preposterous, but everything charges forward with a sense of urgency that makes it useless to resist. Sometimes, Anderson's blood-thirsty love of violence becomes a bit difficult to take, as does his dismissive approach toward the female characters. But then these sweaty, bare-chested muscle-men are as much fun to watch as the lava-spewing volcano that throws biblical-scale destruction all over the fabulously staged grand finale.
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Facts and Figures
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st February 2014
Box Office USA: $23.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $108.6M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Don Carmody Productions, TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Constantin Film International, Impact Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 102
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Kit Harington as Milo, Carrie-Anne Moss as Aurelia, Emily Browning as Cassia, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Atticus, Jessica Lucas as Ariadne, Jared Harris as Lucretius, Joe Pingue as Gracecus, Kiefer Sutherland as Corvus, Currie Graham as Bellator, Ron Kennell as The Weasel, Rebecca Eady as Milo's Mother, Sasha Roiz as Proculus, Jean Frenette as Boss Slaver