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New Release Review - Pompeii

Romantic fantasy set against the backdrop of the vlocanic destruction of Pompeii.

Directed by: Paul WS Anderson
Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris


As a child, Milo (Harrington) sees his Celtic tribe wiped out by an invading Roman force led by Corvus (Sutherland). 17 years later, Milo is purchased by a Roman slave owner and sent to the city of Pompeii to become a gladiator. On the way to the city, Milo wins the affection of a young Roman girl, Cassia (Browning), due to his humane treatment of a wounded horse. Corvus, now a senator, visits Pompeii, intending to make Cassia his bride, despite her lack of interest. Milo vows vengeance on Corvus but must survive in the arena first. Meanwhile, Mount Vesuvius, in whose shadow the city lies, is beginning to rumble angrily.
Paul WS Anderson is one of the most reviled directors working today. I often wonder why he attracts such derision, but every time I see one of his films I find it difficult to mount a case for his defense. On a purely technical level, Anderson is no worse a director than some who have recently been put in charge of far more prestigious movies with the sort of budgets he can only dream of. To his credit, he avoids the quick cutting and shaky cam aesthetic that has become the fallback of the clueless, and he does make some effort when it comes to exploiting 3D. Put simply, Anderson is a perfectly adequate jobbing hack. What he's not, however, is an accomplished writer, and this is where his films, nine of which have been self-penned, fall apart.
Anderson didn't write his latest offering, Pompeii; the blame instead lies with a trio of writers whose past credits include such horrors as Batman Forever and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. Credit for the story should really go to James Cameron, however, as Pompeii borrows so much of its plot from Titanic that you'll be surprised at the lack of a Celine Dion number over the closing credits.
Setting a romantic subplot against the backdrop of a disastrous event has become a well worn cliche since Cameron's record breaking blockbuster, and that's exactly what we get once more here as Harrington's savage Celt Milo is paired with Browning's Roman lady Cassia. Reducing the plot to "Rich people bad, poor people good" is a shortcut taken by far too many uninspired screenwriters, though it certainly worked in Cameron's favor, financially speaking. With Milo and Cassia, that's pretty much all we're given as far as character building goes.
Sutherland takes the Billy Zane role of the rich cad and his deliciously camp performance makes for the film's few entertaining moments. He alone seems to understand how ridiculous the whole affair is. Had Pompeii been entirely fashioned in the spirit of Sutherland's approach we'd have a far more entertaining movie than the one we're presented with here.
3/10


Eric Hillis

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