February 5, 2005 -- “Spartan” is a slick spy story with smart dialogue anchored by a strong performance by Val Kilmer. Kilmer plays Robert Scott, a U.S. covert operative who finds himself labeled renegade because he has honor and the people he works for are corrupt. Although the story deteriorates in the last act, most of the movie is of high quality.
This film was written and directed by David Mamet, but it isn't in the usual Mamet mold. Mamet usually makes movies about criminals, not about government agencies. The story starts out like a top notch spy thriller, then self-destructs with some unfortunate unbelievable, clichéed plot twists.
Smart, and tightly-written at first, we follow a mysterious government mercenary, Scott, and his trainee, Curtis, played by Derek Luke of “Atwone Fisher” as they try to solve a high-profile kidnapping case. Scott talks tough, and in code-talk most of the time, snapping out cryptic orders, and acting with ruthless efficiency. Scott and the people he works with operate smoothly. Everyone seems to crackle with intelligence and they operate with an economy of words.
About halfway through the story, the plot deteriorates into a run-of-the-mill conspiracy, and not a believable one at that. Scott becomes one man against the world as he stumbles down a dark cinematic alley mined with James Bond clichés. Despite all that, the dialogue is always smart, a Mamet specialty.
The plot suffers from serious believability issues. For instance, you don't assign a rookie agent to a high-profile kidnapping case like this. The whole subplot involving the high-ranking official, his daughter, and secret service security lapses reeks. None of it passes the smell test. Other than that, it is O.K. entertainment with good acting, good action and a fast pace. The cryptic, clipped dialogue was generally good, too, but all the characters had too much of a tendency to talk the same way, without sufficient individuality. This film rates a B.
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