March 11, 2004

SPARTAN – Movie Review

An Anally Retentive Rescue of the President’s Daughter
By Fred H. Arm
Career special military officer Robert Scott (VAL LILMER) is summoned along with his highly secretive special operations force, to find Laura Newton (KRISTEN BELL), the President’s missing collage-age daughter in Boston. Scott is paired with his novice protégé, Curtis (DEREK LUKE) of Antwone Fisher fame. Leading the task force are some highly placed politicos from the President’s cabinet like Burch (ED ONEILL) and Stoddard (WILLIAM H. MACY), who relentlessly drive the crew to find the President’s daughter before the press must be notified.

Curtis and Scott are rapidly closing the gap to Laura’s whereabouts, when a news broadcast announces that Laura and one of her professors have been found dead at sea from an alleged boating mishap. Scott returns quietly to his ranch somewhere out west. Curtis, dissatisfied with the account of Laura’s demise, finds Scott at his ranch and induces him to come with him to find Laura.

All this drama sounds like it could be quite a story, however, in spite of director DAVID MAMET’s brilliant expertise in constructing an edge-of-the-seat woman hunt, the implausible happenings leaves you confused and righteously skeptical. This flick is as improbable as a 007 James Bond adventure without the fun of sexual interludes, gadgets, special effects, or humor.

The wooden character of Scott has no regard for human life or individual rights and, like Bond, seems to have a license to kill. And kill he does with impunity as the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and who knows whatever other agency casually are along for the ride. It seems that anything is acceptable to justify the end. Without the humor of a James Bond, this movie takes itself much too seriously. It is one of the rare times when sympathies gravitate more to the villains than the anticipated squeaky-clean government law enforcers.

Macy’s role as Stoddard does not quite live up to his usual standard of performance. His exceptional talents are sadly wasted in a mediocre role of a corrupt political operative. Nevertheless, I must say that the film entertains in a curious way, notwithstanding its unbelievability. For the first time in a movie, a gunshot sounds like a real gun. That in of itself is quite unsettling. The action is brisk and the suspense is highly involving. Yet much of the images of the unfeeling Scott would have best been left on the cutting room floor and an extended exposition of Curtis’ talents would have made this yarn much more palatable.

Posted by fredarm at March 11, 2004 10:14 PM


Posted by: Jon Huron at November 3, 2004 10:58 PM
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