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Article by Teddy Durgin

Green Means Go See the 300 Sequel

There have been many instances over the years where I and other reviewers have thrown out all rational criticism and told readers, "You may not like this movie, folks... but you HAVE to pay to see it just for this one great scene!" Over a decade ago, I remember hating the Sylvester Stallone auto-racing flick, "Driven." But I told people to go see it just for the one sequence where Stallone chases his younger protege through the streets of Chicago... in Formula One race cars! More recently, I urged readers to go see "The Wolf of Wall Street," endure its 500-plus curse words and wall-to-wall depravity, just to behold the sequence where Leonardo DiCaprio, hopped up on Quaaludes, has to crawl from the lobby of a country club to his sports car and attempt to drive home. You could hate the rest of the film. But that one scene and its over-the-top physical comedy was worth at least a $10 ticket investment. Well, "300: Rise of an Empire" has one such scene, too. And it's not a car chase or a bit of high comedy a la "Wolf." And if you're a prude, you may not want to read any further, 'cause you're just gonna be disappointed in me. Yes, society is headed to Hell in a hand-basket. Filth is running rampant. There is no civility. But, gosh-darn it, "300: Rise of an Empire" has one of the best sex scenes I've ever seen depicted in a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster! It couples former Bond girl Eva Green as Artemisia, the crazed, cold-blooded commander of the Persian navy of yore, and Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles, the Greek general who opposes her every move and counter-move at sea. Boy, do they eventually execute some moves and counter-moves! The fact that the rest of the film has swordfights and giant warships ramming into each other on the open seas? That's all just bonus! "300: Rise of an Empire" isn't so much a sequel to the mega-successful "300" of seven years ago. It's more like a "side-quel," as the bulk of this new story happens while the events of the first film are occurring elsewhere. Those events are referenced throughout, some archival footage of Gerard Butler as Leonidas is shown here and there, and several characters - Lena Headey's Queen Gorgo, Rodrigo Santoro's wicked God-king Xerxes and David Wenham's Spartan warrior Dilios - show up in extended cameos. But the new film is all Eva Green's, and she turns in one of the great female performances in a genre film you'll see. Sure, she plays essentially the villainess here. But I couldn't help but root for her with all the flair and physicality Green brought to the role. Artemisia is kind of a combination of Darth Vader (executing an officer here and there who fails her), Xena the Warrior Princess, and Bettie Page. She is flat-out mesmerizing. Pity poor Sullivan Stapleton. The guy not only has to live up to Butler's star-making turn from the first film, he also gets vacuumed up into the tornado that is Green's outsized performance. And the script gives him no great keeper lines - certainly nothing on par with Butler's "THIS... IS... SPARTA!!!" from the first flick. I know, I know. People don't pay to see a flick like this for the dialogue. But, man, there used to be a time when a Schwarzenegger or a Christopher Lambert would run his blade through a dude, turn to the camera and say something like, "I guess he got the point!" The point I'm making here is, "300: Rise of an Empire" ain't perfect. It's too self-serious in spots. But part of my job is to determine if the target audience is going to get its money's worth. That's an easy call. Eva is worth the Green, baby! "300: Rise of an Empire" is rated R for sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence, the sex scene, nudity and some language.


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