Spartan

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Spartan Movie Poster Image
Very violent movie ultimately just falls apart.
  • R
  • 2004
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Anti-gay epithet.

Violence

Intense peril and violence, brutal beating, many characters killed. Peril.

Sex

Sexual references and non-graphic situation.

Language

Very strong language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, smoking, reference to drug use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has intense peril and a lot of graphic and explicit violence, including knives and guns, and many characters are killed. Characters smoke and drink and there are drug references. There are sexual references, including references to sexual slavery, and one mild and non-explicit sexual situation. A character commits suicide (though that is later called into question). As in almost all Mamet movies, characters use very strong language.

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What's the story?

When the daughter of the President of the United States goes missing, Secret Service Agent Scott (Val Kilmer) is called in on the investigation. Speed is the top priority. Secrecy comes next. Niceties like Constitutional protections and not killing people who might be innocent are lower down on the list. Scott and able trainee Curtis (Derek Luke) think they are getting close to finding the girl when the word comes down that she and a college professor have been found dead following a boating accident, and they are ordered to end their investigation. But that is when Scott, always a "how" man, not a "why" man, finds that he cannot travel as light as he thought. It isn't so much that he wants to understand who the bad guys are. He just wants to get the girl back. Even if she doesn't want or deserve to come home.

Is it any good?

The dialogue is David Mamet lite, with none of the brilliant riffs that energize his other scripts. There are three different stories in this latest effort from the writer/director; only one of the three is pretty good -- a rescue mission to retrieve the kidnapped daughter of the president. The second is a passable, if overly familiar, story of a man developing a broader sense of his own values. And then there is a poorly handled story about government corruption and manipulation of the media. As that thread takes over in the last third, the movie falls apart.

Mamet is fine when it comes to tension, confrontation, and tough attitude, but as a director his idea of action sequences is to have people unexpectedly get shot. He fumbles the tone of the movie by committing the very last sin his characters would permit -- he loses control with preposterous multiply paranoid layers that wear out instead of boring in.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the compromises made by the characters in this movie, including the willingness to violate the rights of suspects in order to get information quickly and the willingness to compromise loyalties and risk lives in order to win an election. How do they decide what their priorities are? What is the difference between the way Scott regards his orders at the beginning of the movie and the way he does at the end? Why? What does it mean to say that "We're just two men in green?" What does it mean to say, "You're going to be taking that fight to bed with you for a long time. You don't gotta do it all now?"

Movie details

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