Friday, February 21, 2014

Pompeii Movie Review

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje & Kit Harington (r) in Pompeii

2012: A Disaster Odyssey

What do you get when you combine 2012, Gladiator, The Horse Whisperer and some of the cheesiest acting this side of a daytime soap opera? You get Paul W. S. Anderson's $100 million adventure-disaster film Pompeii, the latest Hollywood rendition of the "end of the world." The splashy 3D spectacle actually works on some level, for the first hour or so (I was feeling charitable) before falling off the cliff in disastrous fashion towards its laughable conclusion.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Set in 79 A.D., Pompeii tells the epic story of Milo (Kit Harington), a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.

What’s Best: Anderson may not be a great filmmaker; but he does a pretty good job framing a scene (especially in the midst of blowing something up.) He destroys Pompeii almost single-handedly, as if to say, "Who needs a volcano, when I have CGI to do all my dirty work for me?" Most people died from intense heat (up to 500° F) in the real disaster; but Anderson prefers to kill off his Pompeians with earthquakes, fireballs, hail storms, tidal waves and then volcanic ash/lava. The destruction of the Colosseum is especially cool.

Kiefer Sutherland acts circles around his co-stars, delivering the same kind of cold-blooded ruthlessness he displayed so well in The Lost Boys and The Vanishing: You have to love how he deals with a traffic jam of people, while trying to escape Pompeii... 'Kill them. Kill them all!' Talk about shortcuts.

Last but not least, how can I overlook super-hottie Jessica Lucas and her intimate hair brushing scene with Cassia in one of the film's lighter, steamier moments? Hubba-hubba.

What’s Not: Outside of Sutherland, the acting is downright atrocious. Harrington (all 5'10 of him) kicks ass with reckless abandon; but I couldn't repeat a single line of his, if you paid me a million bucks. Browning is even worse, pouting and looking helpless throughout. Why doesn't Milo go for Cassia's servant (Lucas) instead? At least she's worth the effort (hubba-hubba.)

Bad acting notwithstanding, the real culprit here is Anderson and his insistence on showcasing impossible disaster sequences. None worse than Milo's pursuit on horseback of Senator Corvis (Sutherland) through the perilous streets of Pompeii. Wow, that fireball almost hit him! Never mind the fact that Milo & his pals have more testosterone than the 1970's Oakland Raiders: Who else stops to fight hand-to-hand in the middle of an earthquake/tidal wave/volcano?

Best Line: You can keep lines like Bridgageous' 'It is the mountain. It grumbles from time to time.' But I'll take the following gem by Graecus (Joe Pingue) 'You dragged me from a perfectly good brothel for this?' referring to Milo's gladiator audition. Also worth keeping, Mad Men's Jared Harris uttering, 'Juno's tit! Is that all your luggage?' to daughter Cassia, upon her return home.

Overall: Despite its dismal finish, Pompeii makes for a poor man's Gladiator... amusing enough to hold your attention (at least until the end, when all bets are off.) The romantic angle between Milo & Cassia is as cold, as Mt. Vesuvius is hot; but the action sequences are quite good, and the destruction of Pompeii impressive enough to warrant at least half of the budget. After 60 minutes, I was ready to give it a B. Its' drop to a C+ should tell you everything you need to know about the rest of the movie.

Grade: C+