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Spartan
2004 - R - 106 Mins.
Director: David Mamet
Producer: Moshe Diamant
Written By: David Mamet
Starring: Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Kristin Bell, William H. Macy, Ed O'Neill
Review by: Joe Rickey
   

See my movie or else!
Val Kilmer, the poor guy, seems unable to catch a break. He once had a promising career after making waves in films such as 'Tombstone,' 'Willow,' 'True Romance,' and 'The Doors,' among others. He even got the chance to star as Batman in the big budget franchise film, 'Batman Forever.' Maybe his falling off can even be traced back to that film. Although he headlined such films as 'The Saint,' and 'At First Sight,' not one of his films after 'Batman Forever' was a hit. If a film happened to do well, its success was credited to another high profile cast member. He really started to see a downturn in attendance for his films starting with 'Red Planet,' a huge flop about life on Mars. After that he starred in 'The Salton Sea' and 'Wonderland' while appearing in 'The Missing' (another bomb) and the yet to be released 'Mindhunters.' Now comes 'Spartan,' another certifiable bomb after making a little over two million opening weekend in semi-wide release with the added boost of writer-director David Mamet ('State and Main,' 'Wag the Dog') behind it. He too, seems to be a sort of losing streak after 'Heist' and now 'Spartan' becoming commercial failures.

It is rather disappointing to see films like 'Spartan' fail so miserably at the box office. It is a rare breed of film; an action film that is heart pounding, thought provoking, and features a supremely intelligent script. The film tells the story of how corruption and intrigue intertwine in the aftermath of an apparent kidnapping of the daughter of the U.S. President. That may seem like a rather ambiguous plot synopsis, but revealing anything more would be criminal in this case.

'Spartan' excels in nearly every area of filmmaking. The direction by Mamet is stylized without ever becoming distracting. Films that overindulge in stylistic devices oftentimes become distracting; something this film avoids doing. The way in which the storyline is revealed is a rarity in this day and age as Mamet lets the audience become active participants in the mystery as the multi-layered plot unfolds at its own pace; somewhere between frenetic and leisurely. The film also aptly mixes plot development along with sequences of action that are made all the more thrilling because of what is at stake.

A script that is both humorous and complicated at once often highlights a David Mamet film; 'Spartan' is no different. He adeptly mixes intrigue and his signature one-liners into a cohesive whole that is a joy to behold. The film does not include quite as many humorous asides and quips as previous films, but they are still present and the lessening of them makes sense given the dire situation the characters find themselves in. It wouldn’t have made much sense for characters to be cracking jokes while searching for a high-profile missing person, would it? Didn’t think so.

The film’s star is the aforementioned Val Kilmer. He gives a simply great performance as a man with orders from higher-ups conflicting with his core values. He seems really comfortable in this David Mamet created world. Supporting performances by the likes of Derek Luke, Ed O’Neill, and William H. Macy are equally stellar.

Overall, 'Spartan' is a well-crafted mix of intrigue, action, and overall suspense. This is one genuine thriller the likes of which aren’t seen often these days.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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