Starring Val Kilmer, Derek Luke and William H. Macy
Written and Directed by David Mamet
I know there has been a lot of Retro Reviews lately but since the advent of home video, be it VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray or On-Demand the average movie fan has had a distinct advantage in that, you didn’t always need to get out to the cinema in order to see as much as possible. Occasionally there are movies that don’t quite find their audience in the competitive world of theatrical distribution and especially in a city like Toronto they fall victim to the simple fact there is always something coming next week to apply pressure and take the moviegoers hard earned dollars; if you don’t perform at the box office, you don’t get to stay in the theatre. This next dip into the Retro vault takes us to 2004 with the one and only David Mamet at the helm; this is Spartan.
Spartan brings us the story of Robert Scott (Kilmer), he is FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Black Ops and he is none of these. He is a weapon, with no concern or regard for convention; he gets the job done when no one else can. When a Harvard undergrad who is the daughter of a high ranking government official goes missing, it’s up to Scott to apply the pressure. They trace her path from the boyfriend that she had a fight with, to a local brothel that deals in white-slavery. When they discover that her kidnappers are unaware of who she is the pressure is on to find her before her identity becomes common knowledge. Her trail goes cold and after a deadly double cross, Scott is forced to go “Off Reservation” in order to find out the truth and get her and himself home alive.
Spartan is by no means a perfect film, but Mamet deftly concocts his own version of three card Monte drawing us deeper into the mystery, a political thriller worthy of classics like 3 Days Of The Condor. Mamet puts the viewer right besides Scott as the danger unfolds in front of his eyes and we are as in the dark as he is whether or not he’ll survive it all. It occasionally gets bogged down in its own lack of exposition, but if you’re willing this is one of the best yarns that Mamet has ever spun.
Kilmer as the stone faced yet sarcastic and even realistic Scott is perfect as that solider who gets the job done no matter what. Being thrust into this impossible situation where some of his own people have essentially violated his moral code, his existence becomes intertwined with the fate of the kidnapped girl or he risks sacrificing everything that he stands for. A strong supporting cast of Mamet regulars help in creating this world where the unexpected needs to be expected in order to survive.
At the end of the day, Spartan is a highly intelligent thriller for the appreciative film fan, and its only drawback is that like many Mamet films, it knows how smart it actually is.
4 out of 5 stars.
Spartan should be available at video stores across Toronto, click here for more details.