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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner6/08/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Tightly plotted, enjoyable thriller featuring Mamet’s trademarked staccato dialogue and a strong performance by Val Kilmer.

Written and directed by David Mamet, Spartan is a far cry from the world of con-men and criminals usually associated with his films, but if you didn’t know it was a Mamet movie going in you would certainly have guessed by the end.

The setting may be that of the FBI, the Secret Service, Special Ops and the CIA, but there are still con-tricks and double-crosses aplenty, all punctuated with Mamet’s signature dialogue.

Special Ops Seek President’s Daughter

Val Kilmer plays Special Ops officer Robert Scott. As the movie opens he’s involved in a training exercise with two trainees, Jackie Black (Tia Texada) and Curtis (Derek Luke). However, when Laura Newton, the President’s daughter, disappears and is feared kidnapped, Scott and Curtis are brought into the special task force assigned to tracking her down. Led by political operatives Burch (Ed O’Neill) and Stoddard (William H. Macy), the investigation soon leads to a white slavery ring that may have something to do with Laura’s disappearance. Unfortunately, the investigation is cut brutally short when the media release news of Laura’s death…

Val Kilmer is an actor who’s received a lot of bad press in the past, but here he turns in a solid, no-nonsense performance here; his character isn’t instantly likeable, but, like Curtis, you find yourself gradually warming to him.

Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Pieces of April), on the other hand, is an extremely likeable actor and his character essentially humanises Scott. There is also strong support from Mamet stalwart William H. Macy and it’s always a treat to see Ed O’Neill freed from the shackles of Al Bundy. In addition, newcomer Kristin Bell also makes a notable impression.

Film Tightly Plotted

The film is tightly plotted and Mamet employs several neat directorial tricks to keep the audience on their toes, including one that is particularly cruel, but nonetheless effective.

Unsurprisingly, there are several good lines, but the sparse dialogue also serves to highlight the no-nonsense professionalism of the characters – compared to other, similar thrillers, this SOUNDS different and there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be had in trying to keep up with the mixture of jargon, shorthand and references that the characters use.

In short, though the plot may be more or less generic, this is different from the average Hollywood thriller, thanks to a combination of Mamet’s script and direction and Kilmer’s confident performance. Recommended.

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Content updated: 23/01/2020 20:53

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