2004 – Spartan

by Alan Rapp on March 12, 2014

in Home Video

  • Title: Spartan
  • IMDB: link

“Where’s the girl?”

SpartanTen years ago today David Mamet‘s thriller Spartan opened in theaters starring Val Kilmer (in one of his best roles) and a relatively unknown actress (Kristen Bell) only months away from her career breakthrough as a spunky teen detective. Although my favorite Mamet scripts are his satires (State and Main, Wag the Dog), Spartan is an underrated gem that received neither the box office nor critical success it deserved.

Kilmer stars as a member of Delta Force tasked with finding the President’s daughter (Bell) before anyone realizes the young woman is missing. As with other Mamet thrillers, the plot offers twists and turns in a slowly unraveling mystery involving white slavery, kidnapping, family secrets, and questionable orders that costs several good people their lives and careers.

As you would expect from a Mamet film, the supporting cast is top-notch including Derek Luke as Kilmer’s junior partner, Clark Gregg, William H. Macy, Tia Texada, and Ed O’Neill.

Although the initial search for the missing First Daughter is a bust, Scott’s (Kilmer) injured partner notices a pair of small clues that force Scott into continuing the search despite everyone, including the President and First Lady, wishing the entire matter laid to rest with their daughter’s apparent death in a boating accident involving one of her professors. Continuing the search at the behest of a member of the Secret Service leads Scott to Dubai, betrayal, the discovery of a cover-up, and the climactic end to his final mission for the U.S. Government.

Added to the tension, and some pretty strong cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchía, is Mamet’s curt but clever dialogue that conveys much more in a single sentence than many other writer’s full-page monologues. Spartan has a complicated, well-paced, story to tell but doesn’t slow down to talk down to its audience as Mamet keeps things moving realizing (even if they are rarely asked to do so) audiences can keep up when properly motivated and asked to do so. The result is a terrific film that you can buy new for less than $10. Now that’s a bargain.

Available on DVD (but never released on Blu-ray), the home video edition includes commentary by Kilmer and the film’s trailer.

[Warner Home Video, $5.97]

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