Not worth the visit (★, Directed by Paul W S Anderson)
If the criteria for cinema greatness was based entirely on how ridiculously cute and heartstring-pullingly pouty your leading man was then disaster-in-a-toga movie Pompeii would get five stars and all the Oscars going.
Sadly for Pompeii’s star Kit Harington (gladiator slave Milo) and his impossibly perfect lower lip, even passable movies require decent scripts, sensible casting and a passing attempt at pleasing the eye.
Pompeii has exactly none of those things, and it doesn’t have them in spades.
Milo is a Briton whose tribe was wiped out by a bunch of nasty Romans putting down some rebellion or other.
Alone in the world after the massacre he’s captured by slavers and we next see him, known only as The Celt, laying waste to helmeted bad ‘uns in a provincial arena.
With an eye on the big time, Milo’s owner carts the lad off on the gladiator circuit starting in Pompeii.
On the way there he falls for the local toff’s swishy daughter Cassia (Emily Browning), who’s fled Rome and the clammy attentions of Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland, yes, you read that right).
Surprise! Corvus turns up in Pompeii still hot for Cassia. Double surprise! He’s also the one who slaughtered Milo’s parents in the uprising. Gasp!
Please note: Julian Fellowes helped write this script. The mind boggles.
Trite, hammy and with dialogue that stinks like a gladiator’s armpit, Pompeii is what the ideas barrel looks like when it’s being scraped.
It pinches from the classics and more recent, proper films like Gladiator and Centurion, to present an unappealing mish-mash of swords and sandals cliches without an ounce of depth, wit or charm.
The lone, desperate high note of the execrable shite, is Milo’s first entrance into the gladiatorial arena, stepping from the pages of Men of the Coliseum’s annual beefcake calendar circa 45AD like a ridiculously violent wet dream.
But Milo’s abs are not enough to distract from the film’s low notes (and that’s really saying something), namely, every scene in which Kiefer Sutherland says or does anything.
While Sutherland does look like he’s having all the fun gnawing on the scenery as he channels Malcolm McDowell circa Caligula, his lecherous villain is little more than an awkward caricature.
There are so many brainlessly fun swords and sandals ‘epics’ out there, 300, Spartacus, even Clash of the Titans, to offer up something this rubbish is really inexcusable.