dir Paul WS Anderson
scr Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, Michael Robert Johnson
prd Paul WS Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moszkowicz
with Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jared Harris, Jessica Lucas, Sasha Roiz, Currie Graham, Joe Pingue, Ron Kennell, Dalmar Abuzeid
release US 21.Feb.14, UK 30.Apr.14
14/Germany Constantin 1h44
The end of the world is nigh: Harington and Browning

akinnuoye-agbaje sutherland moss
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Pompeii This period disaster movie is relentlessly trite, although it's also a guilty pleasure as a men-in-skirts action spectacle. It helps hugely that the cast knows how to make even the most ridiculous dialog zing with personality. And that director Anderson is utterly shameless when it comes to milking every moment for everything it's worth.

After his Celtic community is slaughtered by Romans, the slave Milo (Harington) becomes famous as a gladiator in AD 79 Londinium. So he's taken to Pompeii, where his kind intelligence (ahem!) catches the eye of noble woman Cassia (Browning), whose politically powerful parents (Moss and Harris) definitely would not approve. Milo immediately clashes with the local gladiators, although tough-guy Atticus (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) befriends him as he seeks vengeance against the cruel Roman Senator Corvus (Sutherland) who murdered Milo's parents. Meanwhile, Mount Vesuvius is growling, preparing to unleash an eruption of cinematic proportions.

The production values are about on par with the TV series Spartacus with added 3D whizzery and elaborately staged set-pieces. And the script is just as cheesy. Yet the seasoned cast members dive into the silly dialog with relish: Moss, Harris and Sutherland chomp mercilessly on the scenery, all but winking at the camera as they tear into each other. Meanwhile, Browning tries to play it straight, adding a certain soapy glee to her storyline, caught between Sutherland's amorous senator and Harrington's sexy slave.

At the centre Harington is thrusting and hunky as the relentlessly heroic Milo. His camaraderie with Akinnuoye-Agbaje's gruff and honourable Atticus is the best thing about the film, adding a bit of emotional weight along the way and in the final conflagration. And Harington's knowing glances with Browning (and her horse) are hilariously entertaining. At least all of this adds oomph to the mostly digital production design, although Anderson does manage to generate some genuine thrills in the action and battle scenes.

On the other hand, Anderson treats brutal violence as arena-style entertainment, wallowing in vengeance as he fills the screen with angry elitist misogynists and sweaty, bare-chested muscle-men. Meanwhile the earth itself quakes with its own fury, preparing for the biblical-scale chaos that seems to take ages to arrive. But when it does, it's pretty fabulous.

cert 12 themes, grisly violence 19.Apr.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall