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"Where is the girl?",
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.