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Spartan on DVD

Spartan on DVD

Spartan is a good movie, but we doubt there’s a person on the planet who hasn’t seen the same thing before.

Robert Scott belongs to the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and Black Ops. Or does he? Who is Robert Scott, and where does his loyalty lie? Who’s good and who’s bad? What exactly is going on?

All questions one must ask when watching Spartan.

When the daughter of a high government official is kidnapped (or is she?), the government’s top bodies spring into action to try and bring her back before the story leaks. Unfortunately, because there’s so much going on and so many twists, that’s about all you can reveal without spoiling some of the fun.

Written and directed by David Mamet, Spartan is a very well constructed, well written, and well-delivered film. The acting is uniformly excellent from an excellent cast (including one of the most unfortunately career-dead celebrities, Val Kilmer), and there’s plenty of suspense and action to keep things moving along smoothly. Kilmer’s performance is good enough, but not nearly as good as his work in The Doors and Tombstone. Derek Luke, who was so good in Antwone Fisher, is good when he’s there, but he’s barely a supporting character here. In fact, the same could also be said for William H. Macy and Ed O’Neill.

Spartan is a race-against-time political thriller that’s extremely well done. But of course it isn't perfect.

The first problem is that it’s just more of the same stuff we've seen before. There have been a million and a half political thrillers (rarely done this well, to be fair), so there’s just not a lot of novelty appeal. Everyone we mentioned the movie to said it sounded “boring,” “stupid,” or “like the same old crap.”

But don’t be scared: it’s a lot better than it sounds.

The second problem is that the movie is a little hard to follow if you aren't paying absolute attention. We watched the first 40 minutes twice and still didn’t quite get what was going on. That may have been Mamet’s intention, though we aren't quite sure.

At the time of its release, Spartan had the lowest opening weekend of the year for a major release. Now its speedy trip to DVD has resulted in a better-than-expected disc presentation that features 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1.

The picture is often very dark, but the color and detail are both very sharp. A few scenes look a little soft with a touch of grain, but overall the quality is pretty impressive.

Audio is not spectacular, with surrounds limited to gunshots and other action-related sound effects. But separation between the front channels is done well enough to give the suspenseful scenes a bit of extra kick.

Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer and a surprisingly good audio commentary by Val Kilmer. At first we were hoping he’d apologize for letting his career get to a point where he’d do The Saint and At First Sight, but once he got going we were glad to have what we got. He’s a charming fellow, so much so that we weren’t sure if he had anything interesting to say or if he were just talking about stuff. But he's interesting.

Spartan, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
107 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Val Kilmer, Derek Luke and William H. Macy
Produced by Elie Samaha, David Bergstein
Written and directed by David Mamet


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