Spartan: A Great Movie You Probably Haven’t Seen

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.

Written by

Darren Barefoot is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He’s the co-founder of Capulet Communications, and co-author of “Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook”.


  1. Spartan was an excellent film. Val Kilmer is probably my favorite actor. You should really go and rent Wonderland or buy that dvd. You will need to watch it two or three times. Awesome film.

  2. I thought it was not that bad of a movie. I tend to hate nearly every movie, but this movie suck out as one that I enjoyed.

    Great to see under-rated movies brought to the spotlight.

  3. I picked this up at Hollywood the other day as they had a bunch of used dvd’s for $5 each. A friend of mine recommended the film so I grabbed it for $5. Now I just have to find time to watch it.

  4. spartan had some really great lines, as darren has pointed out, but some stinkers as well. what was all that crap about american cigarettes? something dumb that gets repeated more than once, in the middle and at the end.

    wonderland is a really great movie, but if you’re looking for val kilmer at his best, you must see the salton sea. for reasons that are beyond me, it is rarely mentioned as one of the all time greatest movies, which it most certainly is. and as a strong indication of how good kilmer is, you could never see that movie and imagine anyone else pulling off that role.

    limb going out on-ness: kilmer was even good as batman.

  5. The best aspect of this movie is that the first 30 minutes has little dialogue extending beyond curt, military based “call and response”. Really nice done, that. It sets the table for the clinical “by the book” aspects of the film that follow. So far so good.
    The last third reverts to tired and cliched and verges on stupid. Which, upon contemplation, does actually jive with militaristic inclinations.
    Go figure.
    Only an “OK” movie though.

    Far better Mamet is American Buffalo.
    Daves best of course, is Glengarry Glen Ross – a FANTASTIC picture for which Mr. Lemmon was inexplicably and criminally denied an Oscar.

    RIP Jack

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