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Tim Bradstreet

David Mamet's SPARTAN

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I recently read a review of this film that had a great line in it.

I think it bears repeating - (paraphrasing)

 

"Mamet's Spartan is an intelligent and entertaining spy thriller which puts fantasy fare such as the Bourne Identity to bed".

 

And while you can count me as a fan of the Bourne Trilogy I also have to agree with this statement.

 

If you missed Spartan, here is some info -

 

Spartan - 2004 - (It's not about Ancient Grecian Warriors).

Written and Directed by David Mamet

Starring Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Tia Texada, William H. Macy, Ed O'Neil, and Clark Gregg.

Also including a wonderful who's who of Mamet regulars.

Cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchía

Music score by Mark Isham

 

Spartan_movie.jpg

 

I almost want to say nothing else, as when I first viewed this film I knew almost nothing about it.

I'd seen a trailer months earlier and when I finally got a chance to see it everything I had seen before was a vague blur.

I only knew I had to see it. I even completely forgot that it was a Mamet film (though I figured that out pretty quickly).

 

Suffice it to say, Spartan is something different in an entertainment world where many action thrillers are about guns and explosions and certain bad acting, this is more about the characters. If you like films that treat you like you already know what you need to know, and then proceed to show you things that you don't, then Spartan is a film that you should enjoy thoroughly. It's intense as hell and keeps you on the edge of your seat (for me, literally) without resorting to formula bullshit.

 

Kilmer, through Mamet's direction and crisp script gives us a character that is so exemplary, pensive, and good at what he does that he is the paradigm that all others in his line of work strive to emulate. There is no hesitation with him. He is driven and he is stone cold serious. He uses his considerable talent and training with extreme prejudice. Arguably his best performance since Tombstone, though Kilmer has a lot less "character" to hide behind here, which to me makes it even more impressive.

 

Derek Luke and Tia Texada also give wonderful performances.

 

The Cinematography is slick without being too slick. Juan Ruiz Anchía paints it crisp and spare, though rich, the perfect compliment to the narrative.

 

Mark Isham's score is likewise understated and yet compelling and extremely powerful. It never overwhelms the drama and action. Again, the perfect compliment.

 

Tired of the same old crap at the video store?

Just walk in and find Spartan.

 

 

- TB

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I recently read a review of this film that had a great line in it.

I think it bears repeating - (paraphrasing)

 

"Mamet's Spartan is an intelligent and entertaining spy thriller which puts fantasy fare such as the Bourne Identity to bed".

 

And while you can count me as a fan of the Bourne Trilogy I also have to agree with this statement.

 

This is why I am proud to say you're a friend of mine.

 

Our taste in film is evidence that there is still hope left for modern cinema. For even though at times we can embrace that which pleases the masses, we are always vigilant for that which challenges the mind and takes us to uncharted territory.

 

Next to The Salton Sea, Spartan is the best Kilmer's done in years.

 

-TL

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I also want to single out Clark Gregg, who gives an intense and integral performance.

Gregg also just made his directorial debut with low budget indie darling, Choke, starring Sam Rockwell.

 

- TB

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It was you who got me to check out Spartan when you posted your thoughts on Redbelt.

 

Rented Spartan, but I still gotta rent Redbelt.

 

Last thing I rented was The Ballad of Jack and Rose.

 

Fucking amazing.

 

A simple fim that did more for me than most Summer blockbusters will ever do.

 

You gotta see it.

 

-TL

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Caught The Ballad of Jack and Rose on IFC a few months ago.

Beautiful and brilliant little film.

Love it if you'd write it up for the Non Mainstream film thread.

 

D Day and cast are fucking incredible.

 

- TB

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Haven't seen it in a while so my memory of it is foggy. I pretty much bought it for Kilmer when it came out on DVD. Cause, let's face it... Kilmer is awesome. :D

 

 

 

Oh, and Kristen Bell is in it :P

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If all goes well, meaning the kids let me get some time to watch this before I fall asleep, I'm checking out Spartan tonight. If it's half as good as Redbelt, I'm in for a treat.

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Oh baby! As Val would say ;)

 

I wasn't sure what to expect when I rented this, but I knew it was going to be good after seeing Redbelt and just from hearing what Tim (thanks for the recomendation by the way) and the others had to say about this. There were a few comparsons to the Bourne films, but I think Spartan is on a whole other level. Think of it as the anti-Bourne. Instead of fast paced action keeping you on the edge of your seat, it's the way the story is unfolded and the way it is told.

 

I guess I'm in the minority on the boards here because I don't really dig Val Kilmer that much. Most of the films I've seen him in I like, and he is great in a lot of the roles I've seen, but he never really hit a nerve with me in a way that I have to wait in line to see his next flick. In the last few years he has been chaning my mind, first with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and now with Spartan.

 

As for Mamet, another great film. I'm really starting to dig the way he shoots his films, and the writing is even better. The one thing I like most about Spartan and even Redbelt is not only that you are given characters that already seem asablished after the first 10 minutes of watching the film, but he's not shy about corruption and the way it runs to the highest reaches. In most films we get the happy, all wraped up ending. The bad guy usually has some sort of story that explains his actions and somewhat justifies what has gone down. Not so here.

After the film I was left wondering what happens to the daughter after he was returned home. Call me a pessimist, but I can't believe it will be good for her.

 

If you're sick of your average action flicks and want a little more, check this one out. I can't really add anything that has not been said already. Go see it.

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Awesome JWeb!

Nice breakdown. Appreciate you taking the time.

And thanks for adding the spoiler bars.

 

Now I HAVE to share this comment I received via email from Jim Daly who found time to screen Spartan last night.

And I quote!

 

"How DARE you make me watch not ONE....but 2 of the best movies I have EVER seen in one week.

 

Now what? Go back to watching less than this? Good lord man....Spartan was just simply the best. Jeeeez.

 

off to sleep. Fucking-A thank you. :) "

 

ANYtime Jimbo.

And it's nice to see via the REDBELT and Spartan threads that people are responding to material of quality.

I'm not even trying to herald Mamet specifically beyond the fact that his work these days is definitely top notch and yet somehow it finds no audience at the BO.

In today's over the top world of Transporter, Crank, ultra cartoon action/violence, super kinetic editing, and digital color manipulation - It's nice to know that there are still some filmmakers out there who can still get an honest, hard hitting film off the ground without having to resort to, or cater to the surface entertainment crowd.

 

I don't begrudge the films I've sited. Not at all. They have their place. But in the current climate, films like Redbelt and Spartan are becoming more and more rare. Which is why I'm doing what little I can to help promote them.

 

- TB

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Guest AdminGuyX

Box Office mojo (.com) doesn't know what the production budget for Spartan was, but lists that domestically it only made about $4 million bucks, and about the same overseas.

 

Redbelt was made for $7million, and grossed only about $2.4 Mill, and only $300,000 overseas.

 

OUCH.

 

I couldn't find any reliable numbers for DVD sales, but my understanding is that Spartan has done well on DVD.

 

Here are a few pics from rotten tomatoes.

 

Anyone remember that episode of WKRP with the drinking test? A sheriff comes in and Venus and Johnny both start drinking and see how thier reflexes change? At one point, venus goes and gets a hat . . .

photo_07_hires.jpg

 

photo_13_hires.jpg

 

photo_08_hires.jpg

 

photo_06_hires.jpg

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We watched this flick this evening. Never an empty moment in the flow of the story. Got into the story quickly and stayed engaged to the end. That doesn't happen very often while watching a movie.

 

IMHO this was better than Redbelt because the story did not depend on coincidental occurrences. That bugged me in Redbelt.

 

Anyway, thanks for the recommendation.

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I saw SPARTAN when it came out and it blew me away. LOVED IT! Wanted to see it again on the big screen, but it was out of the theater too quick.

 

When the DVD came out, I bought it immediately and started bringing it over to friend's houses. I turned a lot of people onto that flick. They all loved it.

 

Every once in a while, I run into someone who hates it. I guess it's a love it or hate it flick. You either follow it or you don't. Mamet did not make it accessible on purpose. You either pay attention and keep up or he leaves you behind and that's one of the reasons why I love it.

 

Some of what's great about SPARTAN has made it into Mamet's TV show, THE UNIT. I have a feeling Mamet read Eric L. Haney's great book INSIDE DELTA FORCE before writing SPARTAN and it sparked so many ideas that he created THE UNIT.

 

I had the great pleasure of working with Joe Mantegna over the summer and we got to talk about all things Mamet. At one point I said that I loved the direction that Mamet was going in with his films and that SPARTAN was the best thing that he has directed. I think I hurt Joe's feelings because he replied, "Have you ever seen HOUSE OF GAMES?" (Joe's been in many Mamet flicks, but not SPARTAN.) I told him I loved it, which I do. It's probably number two to SPARTAN in my book.

 

SPARTAN just takes you on a ride and does not let go. But not in a tired, seen that before, blockbuster way. Mamet hates exposition and there just isn't any in SPARTAN. All the information is there, but you have to pay attention in order to get it.

 

And while the dialogue is sparse, you can't forget lines like, "Take out his eye. You bet your life." or "Indicate you heard me." LOVE this flick.

 

Stop reading about it and go watch it.

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Keep meaning to post that I ran into Kristen Bell at the Arclight recently. She was ahead of me in line. I walked up to the line and thought it was her, but wasn't 100%. When she stepped out of the line and I saw that it was indeed her, I struck up a conversation.

 

I told her I loved SPARTAN and she thanked me and said that it was a great movie, but no one saw it. I told her that I turn people onto it all the time, but now when I say the title SPARTAN, people think 300. And she instantly replied, "Yeah, but they were in way better shape than us." That totally cracked me up.

 

Turns out we were both there to see Sam Raimi's DRAG ME TO HELL.

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Next to The Salton Sea, Spartan is the best Kilmer's done in years.

 

Two films I display proudly in my DVD collection. Not had a chance to see Red Belt yet though :-(

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There aren't many films I re-watch, but the subtlety and nuance in this keeps me coming back. Kilmer's performance and the words coming out of his mouth are so idiosyncratic it's almost like he's speaking a foreign language.

 

One of the things I love about it (and feel free to argue with me) is that it works only as a film. Seeing that same material in a book or a comic just wouldn't be the same and would, quite possibly, seem ridiculous without the great cast breathing real life into it.

 

It's incredible how many reviews trash this film and Kilmer's performance.

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Nicely put JAn, and welcome to the boards.

 

I'd actually love to read Mamet's screenplay, just to see how much (or how little) is on the page.

 

It never ceases to amaze me that someone could pick apart and be a bitch to a film like this.

It's like they feel insulted that they aren't spoon fed every little detail.

Imagine actually being invited to think and be challenged by an alternate style of narrative.

 

That rotten bastard Mamet!

 

:)

 

- TB

 

PS - Kilmer got panned? Really? How do I have ANY hair left!?

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PS - Kilmer got panned? Really? How do I have ANY hair left!?

 

Thanks for the welcome, Tim.

 

Let this be the last we speak of this, but here's a review in its entirety that makes me wanna cry.

From http://www.nickschager.com/nsfp/2004/08/spartan_2003_c.html

 

"It’s a bad sign that, three weeks after seeing Spartan, David Mamet’s latest thriller, I can scarcely recall what happens. The president’s daughter is kidnapped and apparently sold into the white slave trade (no, I’m not kidding), and stoic military spook Val Kilmer is assigned to rescue her. But when the government decides to cut its losses and proclaim her dead, Kilmer covertly heads to Eastern Europe to save the young girl. One is supposed to read Kilmer’s heroic decision as a sign that he’s matured into a man who can no longer ignore the humanity of those he’s assigned to save/kill, but since Mamet’s too-stripped-down script doesn’t provide us with a protagonist of any depth or emotion, it’s nearly impossible to care about Kilmer or his courageousness. The writer/director’s trademark dialogue is somewhat diffused by the military setting (which doesn’t allow for enough repartee), although a brief appearance by Ed O’Neil vividly proves that, in the right actor’s mouth, Mamet’s writing has an unmatched cool-as-ice zing. By and large, however, the bland Spartan is barely memorable."

 

I read that I know that what you say is totally right. "Mamet’s too-stripped-down script doesn’t provide us with a protagonist of any depth or emotion" is just a synonym for not being spoon-fed and the film not hitting the same predictable emotional points. The reviewer wishes he could write so much with so little.

 

Let that be the last of that. Great, great film.

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Loved this flick. Its cool that Mamet has a bit of respect for the intelligence of the people watching it and doesn't spoon feed you everything. If I remember the film doesn't even clearly state that its the President's daughter thats been kidnapped. Its just "his" daughter. Overall its a nice, lean thriller.

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