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300: Rise of an Empire - DVD Review

300: Rise of an Empire

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

EVA Green is 2014’s femme fatale of choice if her performances in 300: Rise of an Empire and Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For are anything to go by.

In the former, she commands the screen, creating the one genuinely memorable character in a film that is otherwise marked by repetitive slow-mo violence and silly macho posturing.

Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes and told in the same visual style of the blockbuster 300, Noam Murro’s belated sequel actually serves as a prequel of sorts, taking the action to the sea as Greek general Themistokles (played by Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge against Persian mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) in a bid to preserve their freedom and democracy.

The ensuing action unfolds before, during and after the events of 300, which adds curiosity value, but it remains historically all over the place, which diminishes a lot of its impact no matter how hard Murro may try to claim that the film should resonate with audiences given contemporary battles that are being fought in the name of democracy and civil liberty.

Rather, the emphasis here is on OTT violence and camp action, some of which is admittedly spectacular to behold. But it also becomes repetitive and draining, with every imaginative set piece followed by one that merely seems to be going through the motions,

Thank goodness for Green, then, whose ferocious presence ensures the film lingers longer in the memory than it necessarily deserves to. As vengeful Navy commander Artemisia, Green is a true force of nature – a larger-than-life villain who takes a perverse delight in kissing the severed head of one of her enemies and f**king her main adversary as violently as possible in a bid to get him to switch sides.

It’s a performance that is calculated to be as OTT as possible but which feels perfectly judged against the rest of the film. And it ensures that Rise of an Empire is riveting viewing whenever she is on-screen, if only to see what she is capable of next.

To be fair, Stapleton is OK too as Themistokles, displaying a more level-headed hero than Gerard Butler’s former Leonidas and acquitting himself well during the action scenes (or when going head-to-head with Green). And watch out, too, for Jack O’Connell, also making a decent impression as the son of one of Greek’s heroes.

Hence, while Murro’s film does seem surplus to requirements and lacks the edge of its genre-changing predecessor, it’s a curiosity piece made highly watchable by the scenery-chewing skill of its leading lady Green.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 98mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: September 29, 2014