2014, PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 28, 2014

Wherefore art thou, Steve Reeves? Kit Harington (Game of Thrones' Jon Snow) is adequate as Pompeii's brooding Celt Milo, enslaved by the Romans and forced into gladiatorial combat by Sutherland's sleazy senator Corvus in the Rome-resistant port city of the title. At least Reeves, who essayed a similar role in 1959's sword-and-sandals epic The Last Days of Pompeii, had the virtue of starring in a film that was actually shot in Italy. Paul W.S. Anderson went straight to Toronto and front-loaded his film with enough CGI – much of it excellent – to burden even Hercules himself.

Anderson is best known for morphing the zombified Capcom video game Resident Evil into a thrifty little film franchise that's about to hit round six, thereby providing Milla Jovovich with a steady paycheck and cosplay kids with no end of bloody thumbs and pleather-stitching injuries. Along with Uwe Boll, Anderson has taken the lead in what used to be referred to as mid-to-low-budget exploitation fare. Sure, he may have helmed the gear-grindingly lame retread of Paul Bartel's classic dystopian comedy Death Race 2000, but neither he nor Boll come within spitting distance of exploitation filmmaking's once and future king, Roger Corman, who genuinely leveled the cinematic playing field by infusing stale genre conventions with deeper, darker meaning.

Pompeii is content to trundle along as it follows the foibles of its bland hero and his chaste, forbidden love with Cassia (Browning), the princess of Pompeii. Hounded by grape-eating Romans at every turn, Milo ultimately finds kinship, of a sort, with veteran gladiator Atticus (a visceral Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

Of course, that's not what anybody in the audience is likely to care about. We all know what happens in the end and, to his credit, Anderson totally nails the vulcanization of Pompeii. You want it? You got it: flaming chariot melees, massive tsunamis, and a downright hellacious pyroclastic flowgasm that makes the ones in Dante's Peak look like so many Etch-a-Sketch doodlings (all of it shot in well-above-average 3-D). Pompeii delivers the goods – well, at least during its final 20 minutes.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Pompeii
Texas Platters
Nothing Happens for a Reason (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Feb. 13, 2009

More Paul W.S. Anderson Films
Monster Hunter
The beast-slaying game gets the Paul W.S. Anderson treatment

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 18, 2020

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The final(?) nail in this action horror franchise

Josh Kupecki, Feb. 3, 2017

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


Pompeii, Paul W.S. Anderson, Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle