Spartan (15)

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Time Out says

Mamet's contribution to America's election year surveys the scene from the viewpoint of a ‘worker bee’ in a secretive special ops unit. Agent Scott (Val Kilmer) has always obeyed orders, no matter how messy the consequences, but his latest mission is about to shake his moral certainty. Details emerge piece by piece in the film’s breathless first half: the President’s rebellious college-age daughter has been kidnapped; the trail suggests white slavers are behind it, their human cargo bound for the delectation of wealthy Arabs. A PR disaster looms for the White House if news leaks out before Scott and company can trace the girl, but are his immediate superiors (slick politicos Ed O’Neil and William H Macy) telling anyone the whole story?

You could see this material played as a Tony Scott blockbuster or Dolph Lundgren cheapie, but while Mamet relishes playing with the military hardware, it’s so obviously an exercise in genre styling that would-be thrills are stiffened by self-consciousness. True, it’s easy to share his fascination with the need-to-know basis on which action-movie plotting creates its own contained universe, but it makes for an ungainly match against the heavy-duty ideological ramifications of scathing disillusionment with America’s tarnished chain of command. Meanwhile, Mamet’s reliably dazzling dialogue keeps up a steady supply of pricelessly knotty aphorisms, and the cast love him for it, Kilmer in particular hitting a zone of laidback authority which makes this his best showing in years. Overall, the combo of popcorn and pomposity’s probably something of an acquired taste, but in an era of Hollywood homogenisation it’s rather cheering to see Mamet still getting to do things his way.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

2004

Duration:

107 mins

Cast and crew

Cast:

Tia Texada, Derek Luke, Val Kilmer

Director:

David Mamet

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