Russell Crowe stars as a Roman general asked by the dying emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), to take over as ruler. The emperor’s wrathful son (Joaquin Phoenix) promptly orders the execution of the general and his family; surviving as a gladiator, the general fights his way back to Rome to take revenge and restore justice in the Colosseum. Though the digital effects lack the weight and conviction of their equivalents in old Cecil B. De Mille movies, Ridley Scott’s sword-and-sandal epic has some of the intensity of old Hollywood in terms of storytelling, spectacle, and violence—Connie Nielsen and Oliver Reed make especially strong contributions. But don’t expect anything as good as Spartacus or as enjoyably silly as Quo Vadis? The script, by producer David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, is serviceable but not exactly inspired. 154 min.