Spartan

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Starring:Val Kilmer, William H. Macy, Derek Luke
Rating: R for violence and language.
Directed By:David Mamet
Movie Released: 2004
IMDB Link

Final Grade:

Some of the year’s best surprises are sometimes buried amongst the big box office smashes. In 2003, one of the greatest “chick flicks” of recent years stumbled in and out of box offices and no one noticed. (For those of you who are wondering what it is, the film was called “The Bread, My Sweet” (Renamed “A Wedding for Bella” on DVD)) Few knew it existed, and those who did have tried hard to push everyone they know into checking it out. This year we watch yet another film suffer the same fate, only because the big studio executives who sit behind desks crunching numbers don’t think Val Kilmer can mean box office bank.

Val Kilmer Stars as Robert Scott, a military officer who works for a special operations force. He is called upon when a high-ranking official’s daughter (Kristen Bell) is kidnapped. Paired with a rookie agent, Scott finds out that there is much more to this simple kidnapping than he had originally thought, and it leads him to deep into a white slavery ring and a battle against a political operative who knows more than he is letting anyone think he does.

Heavy on the drama this film has one of the best-written scripts I have seen. Straight forward and simple yet filled with detail, writer and director David Mamet does a fantastic job on this film. A great script attached to Mamet’s name isn’t that big of a surprise, as he has written films such as Wag The Dog, Glengarry Glenross, and Apt Pupil as well as Hannibal.   Mamet also does some great work behind the camera, and does a nice job of creating the perfect tone for this drama thriller. Val Kilmer is excellent, and in fact this may be his best film in years, other than The Salton Sea (another film that few knew existed). Kilmer has the charisma to be a huge star, but he has never made that leap into superstardom. Production companies watched his box office clout stumble after Batman Forever as he churned out movies such as The Saint, which didn’t do well in the box offices. Now stuck behind the shadow of some bad choices Kilmer hasn’t been able to step out of the shadows and re-establish himself as a great actor.

However, in Spartan, Kilmer brings his character to life, in a way that sucks you in as an audience member and makes you almost beg for more. His character sometimes of few words snatches up your attention through expressions as well as dialogue. When an actor is able to do that, you know that you have a great performance. It’s sad that few will see this film.

In the end, they may be missing out on a fantastic drama, that has all the key components the other bigger box office drama wannabes don’t have. A great story, a great director and a great actor. Many dramas can claim to have all of those, but most of them are churned out by a nearly computer like screenwriter and picked up by a director who isn’t that well established. The fate of the movie then falls into the hands of the poor actor or actress who becomes sucked into the project. Those wastes of film hit the box offices in a big way, and others more deserving are forgotten. Take your chances at something new. Don’t trust the studios. Get out there and watch some great cinema. Add Spartan to your list of things to see. You’ll be happy that you did.

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