Review Date: March 11, 2004
Director: David Mamet
Writer: David Mamet
Producers: David Bergstein, Moshe Diamant
Val Kilmer as Scott
Derek Luke as Curtis
William H. Macy as Stoddard
A high-ranking U.S. government official's daughter is kidnapped and plugged into a human slave trade operation. The bad guys don't realize that the girl is anything special, but the good guys (also known as the spy guys) do and work diligently to trace and retrieve the stolen child. Val Kilmer ensues...
Despite feeling a tad contrived at times and the jargon-filled dialogue, a little stilted, David Mamet's latest cinematic adventure was entertaining, riddled with movement, suspenseful and packed with intrigue, intrigue and oh, did I mention...intrigue? I'm a fan of spy movies, thrillers in general and flicks that provide audiences with behind-the-scene peeks at industries, worlds and cultures to which we are not acclimatized, and this flick is all that and a tinge of complexity. If you're the type of moviegoer who enjoys having every little step drawn out for you, forget SPARTAN. This flick moves at a lightning pace and doesn't provide anyone both in the film or the audience with a second to think, breathe or reflect. I enjoyed it because I understood most of what was going on (although admittedly, a lot of the specifics were lost on me, especially when covert lingo was utilized) and was engaged throughout. Yes, some of the situations felt a little "convenient" and David's "Mamet-speak" didn't work as well coming out of some of the actors' mouths as it did others, but I'm also one of the few assholes who liked Mamet's last film, HEIST, and appreciate most suspense thrillers as long as they don't ask us to stretch the boundaries of belief too much. I'm also a big fan of dialogue and despite Tarantino, the Coen Bros and Kevin Smith still reigning supreme in that respect, Mamet definitely maintains the stranglehold on all things con-related and this film's return to slick-line territory is further proof of that. I can't remember any specific zingers off the top of my head, but there were more than a handful that made me chuckle during my viewing.
Val Kilmer was also solid as the lead (although I'm not sure if I bought his "sentimental" moves-he seemed too cold-hearted all the way through), and was helped by a decent supporting cast. That said, the asshole who put together this film's trailer should be bitchslapped for giving away one of its eventual bad guys. Thanks a lot, dude...I guess you weren't aware of the fact that surprises in a film are actually appreciated by some audiences! Bah. Hate those guys. One of the picture's greatest strengths was also its ability to toss you right into the middle of all the action, develop a credible underground world with governmental insiders and wrap it all up in a maze of conspiracies and twists, most of which I enjoyed. Granted, some of the stuff went a little too far (especially the last few scenes) and I'm not sure if I bought the whole thing, but at the end of the day, the film entertained me and that was likely its primary target anyway. Is the film for everyone? Absolutely not. If you're not a fan of David Mamet to begin with, this is likely not for you, nor is it for anyone who likes everything spelled out for them. This film moves quickly, doesn't take the time to explain every detail to the audience and tosses enough cryptic dialogue in there to confuse anyone, but if you enjoy mystery flicks with lots of dark shadows, hard-ass pursuers, immoral bad guys and conspiracies all around, check out SPARTAN and email me to let me know why Ed O'Neill doesn't get more serious movie gigs. Great man.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian