• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

Spartan

Spartan

Directed by David Mamet. Starring Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy, Ed O’Neill, Tia Texada. (2004, R, 107 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 12, 2004

Spartan is a crackling good David Mamet movie, one of his by-now almost patented caper dramas, although this time set within the world of the military and political dirty tricks. As usual, the dialogue is distinctly Mamet (although the four-letter words in this movie seem to be turned down a notch or three). But the inclusion of the more laconically inclined actor Val Kilmer in the film’s lead decompresses much of Mamet’s typically rat-a-tat clip and intensity – in a good way. Kilmer’s Robert Scott is a believable character, a career Marine who is highly respected by his peers and employers yet keeps his own counsel. Scott refers to himself as a "worker bee" and not "a thinker or planner." We witness how rapidly and dependably he shifts into action the second duty calls and, furthermore, uses whatever means necessary to accomplish his mission. At the beginning of the film, just as he’s going off-duty from a training drill with a special ops unit, he’s called into service on a kidnapping case. It’s a good 20 minutes or so before it’s disclosed to the viewer that the victim is the U.S. president’s daughter, who is a college student in Boston. While on the case, along with new recruit Curtis (Luke), the two stumble into a white-slavery ring. But then things get really complicated and are not (big surprise) what they seem. Political objectives hold sway, and Scott soon has to decide whether to act of his own volition. The less said here about the plot’s twists and turns the better. However, it should be noted that these military and shadowy political milieus prove to be perfect settings for another of Mamet’s incisive investigations of the male group psyche. The performances are all top-notch, and the camerawork seems a bit more sophisticated than in Mamet’s previous eight writer-director efforts (this even though Spartan was shot by Mamet’s frequent collaborator Juan Ruiz Anchía). Moreover, there is no Rebecca Pidgeon in this movie, a definite plus for many loyal Mamet watchers. A political thriller with topical currency, Spartan delivers the goods.

READ MORE
More David Mamet
David Mamet: Textual Perversity From Chicago
David Mamet: Textual Perversity From Chicago
For his first residency at UT, Mamet discusses his work and career in a public conversation

Robert Faires, Feb. 1, 2008

More David Mamet Films
Redbelt
Although David Mamet's new film, which is set in the mixed-martial arts fight world, contains all the storyteller's familiar motifs, Redbelt may also represent his most commercial venture yet.

Marjorie Baumgarten, May 9, 2008

Heist
It was a genuine surprise to arrive at the free, public screening of Heist and find a huge line already queued and waiting impatiently outside. ...

Marc Savlov, Nov. 9, 2001

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Equity
High-wire drama about women working on Wall St. is also made by women

Aug. 19, 2016

Hell or High Water
Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster shine in West Texas crime film

Aug. 12, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Spartan, David Mamet, Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy, Ed O’Neill, Tia Texada

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)