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Overall Rating
4.08

Awesome: 40.68%
Worth A Look45.76%
Just Average: 3.39%
Pretty Crappy: 1.69%
Sucks: 8.47%

5 reviews, 29 user ratings


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Spartan
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by Jay Seaver

"...it's brutal, and fast, and comes out of nowhere."
5 stars

Here's a pretty spiffy thriller that slipped into theaters under the radar with nothing more than a striking one-sheet for promotion.

I hadn't realized that it was set (and shot) here in Boston, and was as such my brother Matthew's introduction to going to the theater and seeing places you walked past on the way to the movie on-screen. It's a bit of an eerie sensation; you simultaneously feel some local pride, start paying close attention for any errors in geography, and wonder how you could have missed someone shooting a movie practically on your doorstep.

But, anyway, the movie. It's good, very good. It has a nice matter-of-fact procedural tone to it, with writer/director David Mamet and composer Mark Isham never feeling the need to goose the soundtrack to get the audience's interest. It's a story about the Secret Service chasing down the President's missing (kidnapped?) daughter, and that, they figure, should be interesting enough in itself, especially considering how the story is able to turn on a dime. Similarly, Mamet's approach to the action and gunplay is rooted in how special forces types actually work - it's brutal, and fast, and comes out of nowhere. The skilled soldiers and killers are finished before you're quite ready to begin. This does not mean the action feels chaotic or random, though - indeed, Mamet does a great job of letting the audience understand where everything is in relation to everything else; his ability to establish the physicality of an action scene without verbal exposition is comparable to John McTiernan or Sam Raimi on a good day.

This being a Mamet film, that "verbal exposition" is pretty noticeable. The dialog in Spartan does not sound real but does sound good. Speech is more eliptical, and seems more pre-written, than real speech, but it sounds interesting, and everyone does have their own voice, from the clipped, military words of Sgt. Jackie Black (Tia Texada) to the eager-to-please Curtis (Derek Luke). Val Kilmer's Mr. Scott, a loyal and efficient soldier, uses his odd speech almost as a tool to keep people at arms' distance. Also present are higher-ups played by Mamet stalwarts Ed O'Neil and William H. Macy. Thankfully, Mamet does not supply us with a rookie who needs things explained to him, so we learn about how these Secret Service types work by watching them act with an occasionally frightening competence.

It's nerve-wracking and off-kilter in a pleasant way. Though it's based on an unlikely plot and features stylized dialog, the execution, by both the filmmakers and characters, is so professional and no-nonsense as to banish any complaints about unreality from one's head.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8820&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/03/04 20:26:08
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User Comments

2/16/10 jreneski interesting remake of Helen of Troy complete with a Trojan Horse 4 stars
3/22/08 david good plot, horrible acting 2 stars
5/19/07 R.W. Welch Murky in spots, but a watchable political thriller. 4 stars
11/27/05 kemperman watchable but flawed 3 stars
10/25/05 Katie Evridge Pointless 1 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Not nearly as good as "Heist," but I love a shady, sinister protagonist. 4 stars
9/19/05 ERIC ROBERT WILKINSON Mamet makes a film unlike any of his other work, and brimming with greatness! 4 stars
7/03/05 Ice Queen engaging 5 stars
4/18/05 Indrid Cold That Mamet dialogue; half the time you don't know what they're talking about. 4 stars
4/07/05 Landshark If you have any brains, bring em, you'll need em. 5 stars
2/11/05 Joe Uninteresting characters, plot makes no sense 1 stars
1/21/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Finally Val Kilmer looks good. Mamet makes it all happen. 5 stars
1/04/05 Dave Chen Great! Must see! 5 stars
7/31/04 Uncle Phucker Slow and exciting simultaneously. The best film of the year so far. 5 stars
7/11/04 Dann Carter intriguing,Val Kilmer is good as usual,definitely worth a look! 4 stars
7/10/04 maureen baker wow- a great film with all sorts of betrayal, suspense and mayhem. Incredible acting! 5 stars
7/08/04 David C Good story, not predicatble, Mamet style makes it work. Kilmer in a good movie for a change 5 stars
7/03/04 rocky@volcanomail.com Brilliant story arc unfolds with twists and turns and pulls you along. Kilmer is a badass. 5 stars
6/27/04 Bill K Ridiculous plot (holes everywhere). Nobody wears kevlar. Stupid conspiracy idea. 1 stars
4/23/04 We ARE in World War III. That's a FACT! DAMN hollywood for trashing that truth in the mouth of one of its piddling villains! 1 stars
4/23/04 Jenny Tullwartz None of characters likeable, plot often ioncomprensibly brutal, geography wrong 1 stars
3/29/04 NoRefill Good movie. Typical Mamet dialogue, twists, acting. Entertaining story, a little overdone. 4 stars
3/27/04 S. Ritter Keeps you talking -- and think -- long after you have left the theatre. 5 stars
3/26/04 George Hart In a class by itself in this genre, fantastic 5 stars
3/21/04 Manning Good plot, good directing, definately worth seeing 5 stars
3/20/04 True Grit This film kicked ass. Finally Mamet has learned to use his style entertainly. 5 stars
3/15/04 Mike R. Good plot, not great acting/char dev. 3 stars
3/14/04 Laurie DeLeve Good guys a little too good, bad guys are drawn just a little too bad. 4 stars
3/12/04 V. Smith Solid, but 'art house,' espionage thriller. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Mar-2004 (R)
  DVD: 15-Jun-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Jul-2004


Directed by
  David Mamet

Written by
  David Mamet

Cast
  Val Kilmer
  Derek Luke
  William H. Macy
  Kristen Bell
  Alexandra Kerry
  Johnny Messner



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