Val Kilmer's star doesn't shine as bright these days but I really have liked the majority of his films. Even in crap like the Saint, Kilmer manages to still be quite watchable. I won't make mention of that third Batman film. Kilmer's rep of being a hostile actor and an annoying SOB got him canned from A list stuff. The past few years as seen the guy seemingly more humble and taking slightly different stuff to get back in the public eye. Good for him as a number of his recent films have been very good stuff and far from your mainstream type of film. His latest to make the theaters was Spartan, a film about secret service guys trying to get back a kidnapped daughter of someone high ranking in elected office (never mentioned to be the President but one can assume…). Spartan was written and directed by David Mamet. Mamet always gives a good amount of accuracy and sophisticated dialogue to his stories. Spartan is no different but Spartan fairs a bit better than some Mamet films as it is not overly smart and manages to throw in a few very good action scenes to liven up a few moments. While some might not like that, I felt it was a good idea and kept the pace of the film moving just fine. Spartan surprised me as I expected little and came away with a very rewarding film experience. I hope Kilmer manages to get himself into some other films of this caliber.
The film opens with Kilmer training a few Army Rangers who are trying to get into the secret service. They don't tell you that though you just have to realize it. Training over and a quick bond of Kilmer with Derek Luke, one of his trainees, and soon the story gets moving in real fast format. A college girl has gone missing. She is the daughter of someone quite important and everyone is rushing like mad to find out what happened. One would guess she is the President's daughter but they never mention that. Clever I guess. Kilmer is on task and Luke gets the job as his first assignment. Kilmer takes Luke and starts following some leads. Boyfriend leads them to a fight and her going to a club. Club turns out to be front for slavery trade which leads to a brothel. Kilmer has no problem wielding his authority over anyone who might know something. Broken bones ensue. The slave trade is well laid out at this point and now they have to follow its trail. It leads to an ocean front house before moving onto transport to Yemen. Kilmer and crew are about to strike when it is in the news that the girl's body has been found out at sea. Turns out she and her professor drowned. Kilmer takes the story and goes back to his life but Luke has evidence that it is a cover-up and Kilmer and Luke get back on the case to find the girl who is not dead but simply being forgotten about due to political reasons.
Spartan is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Typical of Warner DVD, this is a great looking transfer. The image is very sharp and well defined. It is consistent for the most part with only a couple of scenes with any degree of softness. Colors are vibrant and well rendered. They have a nice warmth to them with strong textures and hues present. Black level is where it should be as is the contrast. Being a recent film the print is immaculate, which too can be said for the compression job. Spartan looks great on DVD with no complaints whatsoever.
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is included for this release. The mix is strong on dialogue which was always clear and well balanced with effects and the score. The few action scenes with gunshots featured good surrounds usage, bass, and well just good design choices. The mix surprised me at how effective and well matched it was for the film and its story.
Two extras for this release which is kind of sad given it is a very good film. Such happens though when it goes out of theaters really fast. Besides a trailer we get an audio commentary by Val Kilmer. Kilmer has a few good nuggets to mention but he does feature a lot of dead time. Too bad Mamet would do one with Kilmer as that would have been probably very good.
I liked Spartan a good amount. I read somewhere where it was called a political thriller. That is a naïve approach to the film as it more of a thriller with a lot of action to move some sequences and good, intelligent dialogue to move everything else. It worked for me. Smart but not too smart, with some well staged action and a nicely paced story. Definitely check it out as Warner has created a nice DVD with a strong transfer, good audio, and a commentary from lead actor Kilmer. At the very least give it a rental.
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