2.5 out of 4 stars
You don’t eat a bacon cheeseburger because you’re conscientious about your health, just as you don’t buy lottery tickets to bolster your investment portfolio.
So why do you dive into that monstrosity of meat or the delusion of winning wads of cash? Because it’s fun.
There’s no other reason: Sometimes, you just throw caution to the wind and indulge, cholesterol be damned.
Welcome to Pompeii, 105 minutes of violence, death and scantily clad women, which may as well be the Holy Trinity of cinematic bliss.
If you’re a man, you don’t go to see Pompeii, which opens on Feb. 21, because it’s going to win Oscars.
You go because you want to see swords slice through skin, repeatedly.
If you’re a woman, you don’t go to see Pompeii because you want to see what life was like in the year 79 A.D.
You go because you want to see a buffet of men sporting stomachs with 12-packs, not kegs.
And everyone should want to see Pompeii because it’s cool to see Mount Vesuvius erupt in glorious 3D, with lava incinerating everything – and everyone – in its path.
Don’t lie: You’re nodding your head in agreement.
Pompeii is basically Gladiator II, the story of how a slave turns into the greatest killing machine in the arena, except no one will mistake Pompeii’s leading man – Kit Harrington – with Russell Crowe.
Sure, there’s a love story woven into the movie’s fabric and Kiefer Sutherland plays a pretty good bad guy as Roman Sen. Corvus, but seeing him on screen makes you miss 24 even more. Had Jack Bauer been living in Pompeii, there’s no chance the city would have been burned to the ground. None.
The movie’s biggest downfall is the characters are so busy trying to lop each other’s heads off they simply don’t have time to develop before Mount Vesuvius pops its top. It’s a shame, too, because the relationship between Harrington’s Milo and fellow slave Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – the man who will earn his freedom if he kills Milo – could have been much more dynamic.
Instead, they were too busy slicing and dicing Romans, delivering such vicious deaths that a few women in the theater covered their eyes. The action scenes – specifically the hand-to-hand combat and Mount Vesuvius’s eruption – are worth the price of a matinee.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson’s biggest accomplishment was pushing the PG-13 limit to the absolute edge, as Pompeii probably was one decapitation away from earning an R rating.
But he could have done more. Milo and Atticus become very likable, but not lovable, a trait that separates goof movies from great ones. You want Milo to save the damsel in distress – the lovely Cassia, played by Emily Browning – and you want Atticus to win his freedom, but you won’t be too upset if they went down in a blaze of lava glory.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 18 years experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He’s also an editor for CBSSports.com. He’s crossing his fingers the only baseball team in Baltimore that will contend for a title this summer won’t be his fantasy squad, the Catonsville Cartel. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.