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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A taut, intelligent movie
I like David Mamet's screenwriting a lot, and his direction is good too. While this movie isn't his absolutely top-drawer material (_House of Games_, _Spanish Prisoner_), it's still way better than the usual run of 'political thrillers'.

If you know who Mamet is, you already know that his dialogue is lean, focused, and idiosyncratic to the point of surreality...
Published on August 5, 2004 by John S. Ryan

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great spy film
I like the way the workings of "the unit" and spy stuff is just presented without explanation. A lot of nods and understood things without abnormal explanatory dialog explaining everything that would never occur in real life unless they were in the presence of politicians, managers or other complete idiots. It's a very good spy film, believable and shocking. Makes old...
Published on February 22, 2009 by Macy Lapham


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A taut, intelligent movie, August 5, 2004
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
I like David Mamet's screenwriting a lot, and his direction is good too. While this movie isn't his absolutely top-drawer material (_House of Games_, _Spanish Prisoner_), it's still way better than the usual run of 'political thrillers'.

If you know who Mamet is, you already know that his dialogue is lean, focused, and idiosyncratic to the point of surreality. You also know to expect a plot consisting of one mind-bending twist after another. This movie will meet your expectations.

It probably won't exceed them; as political films go, this isn't quite up to _Wag the Dog_ (another of Mamet's best screenplays). Its plot is actually -- for Mamet -- pretty straightforward: Laura Newton, the president's daughter, has disappeared, and super-duper Black Ops guy 'Scott' (Val Kilmer) is going to get her back.

By the time we're through we've been cycled through quite a bit of ruthlessness, cynicism, and unflattering revelations about political ambition. The direction is extraordinarily good -- and, for what it's worth, the deaths (of which there are many) are eerily realistic, not yer usual Hollywood screaming-bullets-and-exploding-cars BS. The ensemble cast is wonderful (particularly Kilmer).

But we don't really visit any new territory. For my taste there are a few too many cliches here -- which would be somewhat more acceptable if they were at least Mamet's _own_ cliches, but some of these are Tom Clancy's.

Nonetheless it's all handled deftly and intelligently, and it's miles above the usual run of political thrillers. I'm giving this one four stars by comparison with Mamet's other films, but compared to everything else it's a five-star movie.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Where is the girl?", July 22, 2004
By 
Cubist (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
This oft-repeated line lies at the centre of Spartan, a political thriller from writer-director David Mamet. At the heart of this film is a mystery, one that the central character must solve and, in doing so, discover something about himself.

When the daughter (Bell) of the President of the United States goes missing, the Secret Service brings in Robert Scott (Kilmer) to investigate. He is one of those shadowy operatives with no name (of consequence) that does all of the government?s dirty business under the veil of secrecy and plausible deniability. He is assigned a young, inexperienced partner named Curtis (Luke). They have very little time before the media gets wind of what has happened. The two men go undercover and trace the young girl?s whereabouts to an international prostitution ring.

Scott is a typical Mamet protagonist in that he wastes few words and everything he says has meaning. Val Kilmer is a perfect fit for Mamet?s tough, no-nonsense world. He does a good job with Mamet?s tricky, distinctive dialogue. Much like Gene Hackman?s character in Heist, Kilmer?s Scott is efficient and ruthless in his methods because time is of the essence and his way gets results.

On paper, the film?s story is a conventional one?it belongs to the action-thriller genres?but Mamet flips all of the clich?s and stereotypes on their head with his unconventional dialogue and characterization. Every bit of dialogue and every action are important. This requires the utmost level of attention from the audience because if you miss something, the film does not slow down and allow you to catch up.

Mamet is a breath of fresh air in this politically correct climate in that he never sentimentalizes his characters or their situations. Spartan remains true to this attitude right down the line to its satisfying conclusion.

There is a delightfully eccentric audio commentary by actor Val Kilmer. For every interesting factoid (he talks about all the training and preparation he did for the role), he drops surreal observations such as this, ?If you?re listening to this and watching the film for the first time?You?re really strange.? Imagine hearing that in Kilmer?s trademark cadences and you get an idea of what a surprising treat it is listening to this track. While, there are quite a few lulls in the actor?s commentary, there are enough bizarro gems from him to make it worth sitting through the dry spots.

The attitude of Kilmer?s character in Spartan reflects that of the movie itself?all business. Mamet?s film is a sleek, professional political thriller that was unfairly ignored by audiences and snubbed by many critics. Perhaps it was his not so thinly-veiled critique of the Presidency or the highly stylized prose that scared off mainstream audiences. Regardless, Spartan is a top notch thriller that is exciting as it is intelligent.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing mystery for people who like to think, February 26, 2005
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
Spartan-Rigorously self-disciplined or self-restrained. Simple, frugal austere. Marked by brevity of speech, laconic. Courageous in the face of pain, danger, or adversity.

If you like Ronin then Spartan is choc-full of the same kind of cryptic dialogue with double/triple meanings and clever touches. Not surprising really since Spartan is written and directed by David Mamet who worked on the Ronin script.

When the President's daughter is kidnapped a strict, no-nonsense Secret-Secret Service agent (Val Kilmer) follows an intriguing trail of clues and dead-ends to find out where she is, who took her and why. Hardly sounds original but Spartan dares to do what very, very few Hollywood movies are willing to try; it assumes its audience actually have brains and can figure things out by themselves.

Spartan is the slickest, smoothest and smartest thriller for a good while. Kilmer has his critics and is constantly given a hard time. But here he proves what an actor he can be given the right material. Ed O'Neill also pops up and adds some post-Married With Children credibility to his resume.

Like Ronin, the action is stern and serious. There's nothing far-fetched or unbelievable about this. It may lack the epic feel of Ronin but Spartan is by no means a small movie. I strongly recommend this if you are tired of idiotic action movies and need a fix of something with some class.

The DVD is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and a commentary by Val Kilmer (should be interesting).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked, Unappreciated, Underrated., July 29, 2005
By 
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
What happened here? We have an outstanding script with a fine cast headed by Val Kilmer in an exciting, David Mamet thriller. In fact, particulary for the first 45 minutes, this is about as good as film making gets. Ed O'Neill, on screen less than half your popcorn bag, gives a top shelf performance. Derek Luke and Tia Texada provide strong support and William H Macy is incapable of giving a bad performance. This might be one those films that gets better appreciated, more highly rated and not overlooked as time goes by. Let's hope so!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post 911 Thriller goes No Holds Barred - Highly Recommended, October 17, 2005
By 
OverTheMoon (overthemoonreview@hotmail.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
Spartans live by the code of soldier's honour and die hard. Scott (Val Kilmer) is a marine who doesn't wince at taking out a man's eye for not spilling the beans. As usual David Mamet's direction and screenplay leave the viewer's head spinning after the first three minutes with questions like, "how come a marine is shooting up the local police force?" Many tough as nails moments force the viewer to confront these cold case facts of a military underbelly that needs the guts to get the job done at any cost, especially when the President's daughter (implied as the President's daughter but never officially stated by the movie) has been kidnapped by a Middle Eastern prostitution ring that does not know what it has done. Queue various international espionage scenes including some cinematography work in Dubai and mix it with homeland security conspiracy and you have got yourself a drama that plants itself right on in there along side classics like "Marathon Man" and "3 Days of the Condor" and is not a distant cry from Clancy movies like "Clear and Present Danger".

As a special ops squad leader, Scott does not plan missions; he executes them, with an iron fist conviction that expects complete obedience from his subordinates. In one scene he takes an old age pensioner madam and places her in a chokehold to get the information out of her. Knowing that the girl will be killed when the abductors figure out what they have, it is a race against the clock. Scott dawns a detective mind that is not afraid to whip out a blade when the going gets tough. A double cross sees Scott eventually planning his own mission in order to do the right thing. There is plenty of thinking, plot twists and characters to make it deeper than most thrillers, with still lots to do. This is ace entertainment through and through. If you like any of the movies mentioned in this review and know who Mamet is and appreciate Kilmer in comeback mode - then what are you waiting for? This could well be one of the best DVDs you could hook up with in 2005. It is certainly the best post 911 thriller that does a good spin on homeland security. Check it out.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Under-rated..., April 4, 2006
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
Intriguing movie with as many layers as an onion. There is also a surprising, rare commentary by star Val Kilmer (one of the most under rated actors of the day) in which he alternately teases and admires with warmth, director David Mamet ("Dav-eed Mam-ay"), as well as the Black Ops/Rangers-types he plays in Spartan.

Best to go into the film unspoiled and be surprised, several times over. For anyone who loves espionage with a twist, this one won't disappoint.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly good movie for one I didn't know existed, August 14, 2004
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
This is a movie that I completely missed when it was briefly in theaters. I am not sure why it didn't do well because I enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe it was when it came out and what it was competing against. Maybe it was marketed badly. I don't know, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Val Kilmer does a great job as Scott or whatever the hero's name really is. Scott is a nameless man of action who works for the government in some undefined role doing things that can't legally be done, but need to get done. In this story it is to get back the daughter of the President - although they never come right out and say it. The girl's kidnappers may or may not know who she really is, but if it hits the papers it is unlikely to end well for her. Things move fast.

Scott also trains new special ops folks and a couple ends up with him in this assignment in various ways. Derek Luke (from Antwone Fisher) does a fine job as Curtis who is doing his best at whatever Scott wants him to do, but his newness shows. At times Scott should take him more seriously than he does. Tia Texada is also fine as the earnest and capable Jackie Black.

William H. Macy and Ed O'Neill are government types who will move heaven and earth to support the man they work for (the unstated President). Their actions and the resources they have at their disposal all add to the behind the curtain suspicions the movie tries to raise in us regarding our government.

David Mamet's writing style is unique and personal to him. I appreciated that the F word quotient is way down here, but there are still more than are really needed for effect. Some people say that the word adds realism. Maybe in some circles, but it isn't common where I live and work.

The commentary track by Kilmer adds some interesting insights, but wanders a bit too much and seems like a bit of a tossed off assignment rather than wanting to actually share anything much with the viewer, but he does politely thank us for watching the movie at the end.

All in all this disk was a pretty good experience and much better than I had anticipated for something that I didn't even know existed.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mamet and Kilmer Rock!, March 30, 2005
By 
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
This thriller is very well put together and beautifully directed. Mamet's dialogue and Kilmer's acting make this film every bit as good as "The Heist". I hope Mamet can keep delivering this kind of thinking-man's entertainment for the over 35 crowd for many years to come.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching, worth owning, July 27, 2004
By 
A. L. Saylor (Elizabethtown, PA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
David Mamet's films often require a little getting used to. I believe that's because there is substance there that is not always immediately accessible, and there is a rhythm to his work that requires the viewer to adjust to it, just as it requires his actors to. Spartan has hardly any of his usual witty dialogue. The dialogue, no doubt deliberately, is spartan. I think that's because the work the main character does (which includes killing on behalf of the government) is serious, and he's consequently a serious man. The more I watch this film, the more I appreciate the acting. Did you ever buy a new CD you hadn't heard before, and at first it didn't seem special, but as you listened to it over again, you began to pick up things which revealed depth you didn't realize at first? Spartan doesn't necessarily dazzle you with technique, but it's a well put together film which rewards the viewer who gives it a chance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written film. No cliche action film b.s here, July 25, 2004
By 
"coolhand666" (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spartan (DVD)
Many of the reviews are way off base. Consider the rave reviews by The Washington post, New York Times and Roger Ebert "two thumbs WAY up" Not the ramblings of these miscreants
Some people just don't get Mamet. Too bad for them. But hay - Lowest common denominator films always appeal to the masses. While excellent, intelligent films such as Spartan are not appreciated.
To put things simply - If popularity were any barometer of quality McDonlds would be a 5 star restaurant.
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Spartan
Spartan by David Mamet (DVD - 2004)
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