***/**** Image A+ Sound A+ Extras A
starring Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro
screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad
directed by Noam Murro
by Walter Chaw If Kenji Misumi made gladiator movies instead of the legendarily violent, indisputably awesome Lone Wolf and Cub series, they'd probably have played a lot like Noam Murro's ludicrous but committed 300: Rise of an Empire (hereafter 300 II). Pornographically (in the best way) violent and generous with Eva Green's ample, and horrifyingly-intense, charms, it tells a parallel story to Zack Snyder's gay porn-meets-military-recruitment video 300--a naval (and navel--ha!, priceless) intrigue involving Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) fending off Persian commander Artemisia (Green) in a sea of sometimes-literal blood. The film is completely unapologetic in its hard-R excess, counting among its atrocities child-rape and sexual slavery in the baddie's backstory with more squarely-clenched jaws than a Dick Tracy convention. It's a testosterone-sloppy cock-opera, of course, lending its countless skewerings the musky weight of sadomasochistic homoeroticism, but by sprinkling in Green's bonzer performance and, late in the game, Lena Headey's grief-stricken Queen Gorgo, 300 II suddenly becomes this rape-revenge/avenging-angel exploitation slasher. It's good, in other words. In a weak moment, I might admit it's even better than that.