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Spartan (2004)

  Directed by: David Mamet
Written by: David Mamet
Starring: Kristen Bell, Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy, Ed O'Neill, Tia Texada
Links: Spartan on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 4.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Spartan (2004) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Wonderland (2003).

"Not even mediocre" - a review by pearly

I don't mind having to work a little to appreciate a film. If the plot is complex, that's okay with me, so long as it's worth my while to figure it all out. There is a problem with Spartan though. It is, at the beginning, so confusing that you don't know what is going on, and it's disorienting even for a seasoned confusing-plot film-goer. And there's no pay-off. There's no reason for it to be as confusing as it is, and, when the story moves on from the initial scenes, there was no need for it to be so. I was left, at the end of the film, still not understanding parts of what was going on at the beginning, but I realised that it didn't even matter: the complexity of it all was for no reason; it didn't aid the storyline in any way.

As Spartan begins, there are a group of people at some kind of government training camp. Val Kilmer, who plays Scott, turns up to check out the students, and particular focus is placed on Curtis (Derek Luke). Next thing you know, Scott is at some other building, where someone is being forcefully cross-examined. And then there's some shooting. And then everyone's yelling about someone getting away and stuff like that, and then the Curtis guy shows up. Listen, I don't really know, to be honest. But I think the point of it was meant to be that Scott and Curtis would end up working together, and that Curtis would have been seen to be pretty damned good at his job, even if he is just a rookie. I'm not sure about the rest.

So, once the film gets going, Scott and Curtis are working together, and they're looking for a girl who appears to have been kidnapped, and who, it turns out later, is the daughter of the President of the USA. But, is there more going on than it at first appears? Yes, of course there is.

I found Spartan to be incredibly clunky in its delivery. Interestingly written non-linear stories can make for suspenseful viewing, but in the case of Spartan, the whole thing is done very badly. Furthermore, the dialogue between characters sometimes verges on the ridiculous, with Kilmer's character in particular. This seems to be an attempt to make him "cool", but it fails dismally. I much preferred Luke as a leading man; his character seemed more heroic, but unfortunately Kilmer got the main portion of the screen time.

And then there were the smaller roles. William H. Macy, who has collaborated with Mamet before, and with much better results, shouldn't have been in this film - it's just giving him a bad name which he doesn't deserve. And then there were characters who just kept popping in and out, like Tia Texada, who played a female rookie trying to prove herself, and even more obviously, Kick Gurry who came out of absolutely nowhere and was totally out of place using his natural Australian accent.

Mamet can do better than this, he really can.

pearly gives this movie 4 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 26 Jul 2004

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