Parmageddon is nigh in this cheesy action melodrama that feels both overheated with plot developments (and its simmering main character, Mount Vesuvius), yet strangely curdled from a lack of histrionics that might have redeemed it as fun trash. The structure of Gladiator is cribbed shamelessly as sullen slave turned fighter Milo (Games of Thrones’ Kit Harington, displaying a six-pack of abs and five fewer facial expressions) draws the attention of Cassia (Emily Browning), a wealthy daughter of the city. Unfortunately, such flirtations are frowned upon in the year 79 AD, especially by rapacious Roman senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), who claims the young woman for his prize while ordering his guards to “Kill them, kill them all” no less than twice.
It feels like centuries before multiple horizon shots of the volcano coalesce into the full-on eruption we’re waiting for. Digital plumes of fireballs are impressive, as will be your ability to detach from the human tragedy unfolding on the ground (onscreen, I mean). Pompeii didn’t have to be so boringly awful: Director Paul W.S. Anderson has elsewhere displayed a flair for stylish nonsense, particularly with Resident Evil (2002), in which the concept of “supermodel versus zombies” approached delirious purity. But his efforts here are trammeled. There’s not enough villainy—nor lip-smacking comeuppance—to justify a smiting by ash or falling column. The movie in your head melts ten times better.
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