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Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Arrow Recommends)

Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Arrow Recommends)
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"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: A Thracias warrior (Whitfield) gets a bum rap from the Romans, is separated from his lady love (Erin Cummings) and winds up a slave forced to train in a Gladiator school (known as a Ludus). To make matters worse, the Ludus is owned by quite the pair of treacherous and sexually depraved scumbags (Lucy Lawless and John Hannah). Our hero winds up climbing the ladder of ass-whooping and eventually turns into an icon, one they name: Spartacus. But even with all the success he's getting, he only craves one thing: revenge.

"I sprung from my mother with sword in hand. The ways of battle are second nature, passed down
from father to son." – Spartacus

LOWDOWN: I’m new to Steven S. DeKnight’s now immortal Spartacus series which launched in 2010 with Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Get the Blu-Ray here) and then went on with the prequel Gods of the Arena (2011) and sequels Vengeance (2012) and War of the Damned (2013). I had heard of the show but had never seen one single frame from it until recently. And boy, am I in a tizzy that I jumped on the train. I LOVED my time with Season 1! A seamless blend of trashy, classical, comic book and pulp!

After Season 1, I found out that the star Andy Whitfield (who played Spartacus) had passed on following a fierce battle with on-Hodgkin lymphoma (Liam McIntyre took over the role for the other Seasons). Andy's fight was chronicled in the heartbreaking yet mucho inspiring documentary Be Here Now (see it on Netflix). I won’t dwell on the man’s tragic death too much, but it reminded me of Brandon Lee a bit. A man, whom after paying his dues had finally reached the top of the mountain, had so much more to offer, sky was the limit, and was then cheated by death. As much as Andy was a formidable presence on screen, after sitting through Be Here Now, I realized that he was also a great human being, one who’s strength, love of life and of his family should be esteemed. RIP bro. Am getting bummed. Switching gears. On with the show!

I decided to go about it this way otherwise I’d write a freaking book – here are 7 reasons why Spartacus should be on your Netflix queue or/and in your movie collection. 

1- The Intrigue: Behind the raunchy sex and the grisly battle scenes was a sturdy and intricate story line that handled its countless plot lines and powerful character arcs brilliantly. The betrayals, the love affairs, the devious plans, the lust for power, the twists, the surprising character developments…damn this was a full plate and then some! It was all conveyed with smarts, boldness and panache to boot!

2- The Fights and the Gore: Am standing up and clapping right now. You can't see me doing it but I'm doing it! The fights here were beyond skillfully choreographed and executed. I’m talking jaw-dropping stuff over here! I can just imagine how hard it was for the actors and "stunties" to pin those "chorees" down. Creative, relentless, stylized and no holds barred in their brutality. WOW! As for the gore,we got a mix of practical and CG. Although it was a tad cartoonish and overtly CG in places (obviously intentional to soften the violence for mass consumption) it was still HIGHLY SATISFYING. You’ll see it all in this show blood shed wise: lopped off heads, split craniums, vicious stabbings, severed limbs and we even some poor schlep trying to keep his entrails from tumbling out of his stomach. Good times! 

3- The Dialogue: I loved that the show went from crass to poetic on pretty much every level – including the dialogue. For every line like “Accept your fate or be destroyed by specters of the past never to return.” or “I believe in opportunity and the power of reason to seize upon it.” We got a “Once again the gods spread the cheeks to ram cock in f*cking ass!” I was moved and sent into giggle fits sporadically. 

4- The Sex: Holy Softcore Batman! I must admit to be taken aback as to how far this show went with the “sexy times”. The nudity was full on (everybody gets treated - lots of female T, A, B and I’ve never seen so many dick shots in one show). And the same went for the sex scenes: lesbian sex, gay sex, threesomes, orgies – nothing was off limit here and yeah, I relished every second of it. A F.U. attitude always plays well with me.

5- The Visual Style:  Often enough Spartacus came off like a 300 knock-off in terms of aesthetics. The ramping was there during the fights, the camera shots leaned on the kinetic, the editing was tighter than tight and the green screen work was ample. But as the Season rolled on it felt like less and less like an echo of 300 and managed to find its own voice.  

6- The Cast: The cast was HUGE here and all talented! But for me the one’s that stood out were Andy Whitfield as Spartacus (stoic, intense and likeable), Manu Bennett as Crixus (commanded the screen and showed more layers as time went on), Peter Mensah as Doctore (Can a man have more screen presence!!? Damn!), Nick E. Tarabay as Ashur (ideal scumbag), Jai Courtney as Varro (slight comic relief, dug the curls...lol), John Hannah as Batiatus (the ultimate self centered, ego driven, power mad a-hole), Lesley‑Ann Brandt as Naevia (so much soul in her eyes) and last but not least Lucy Lawless as Lucretia (you hate to love her, you love to hate her and you all want to bed her). 

7- The Romance: There were countless romantic subplots in this Season. Spartacus and his wife, Varro and his gal but personally it was the story of Crixus and Naevia that grabbed me the most. Maybe it was because he was such a brute (that showed more and more layers as the clock ticked) or maybe it was the forbidden love - Romeo and Juliet like vibe they had going, but Crixus deep affection for Naevia while having to do his slave duties and bang Lucretia silly made for some compelling meat to chew on.

Any negatives to spew? Not really. Yeah I wish the gore was less CG at times (specially the blood splats) but it didn’t tarnish my enjoyment much. I also found it odd that the villains kept talking about their schemes in front of their slaves, as if a slave would never rat them out. But I went with it. At the end of the neck snap, Spartacus had all that I love in a show: an engaging and often back handing story line, layered characters/relationships, incredible actors, bang on scripts and so much sex and violence that I almost O.D. on it. It’s not a show for people easily offended or/and with a stick up their asses that’s for sure i.e. I loved the shit out of it. Will you? The f*ck I know. Tap it and let me know!

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