Spartan was on the crappy movie channel last night. It is not, however, a crappy movie. In fact, it’s a great movie–a single-minded thriller with some of the finest dialogue you’ll ever hear in an American film. It’s tense, witty and totally enjoyable. The cast–including William H. Macy, Ed O’Neil and a very restrained Val Kilmer–is exceptionally strong, and buy into the David Mamet (he writes and directs) school of acting.
In an era of remakes, sequels and adaptations, Spartan is a clinic in cinematic storytelling. Mamet’s a straight-ahead filmmaker, never relying on the panicked editing, strange filters or super slow mo that can be crutches for other directors (I’m talking to you, Oliver Stone). It’s a great story, relentlessly told, and has a plot as tight as they come. And, as I mentioned, it’s eminently quotable:
Grace: Nice knife.
Scott: Yeah. Got it off an East German fella.
Grace: He give it to ya for a gift?
Scott: No. As I recall, he was rather reluctant to part with it.
These lines act themselves, if you know what I mean:
Curtis: My name’s Curtis.
Scott: Do I need to know that? If I want camaraderie, I’ll join the Masons.
I’m not sure why, but the film failed dismally at the box office. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and rent it. The critics aren’t as effusive as I am, but nobody hated it and Ebert loved it.