- May 7, 2001
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 107 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Package: Keep Case
I think a lot of David Mamet’s work, known perhaps more for his writing (Hannibal, Glengarry Glen Ross and Ronin… what about State And Main you say? Okay, there are exceptions to every rule…) than his directing, so when the upcoming Warner Brother’s title arrived at my doorstep the other day, I was looking rather forward to screening it. Surprisingly, I’d never even heard of the film prior to its arrival as a screener. It also featured a couple of stars who I think highly of such as, Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Tombstone and Heat) and William H. Macy (Seabiscuit, Fargo and Wag The Dog) and one that I don’t really think as much of, Ed O’Neill (who’s gone from shoe salesman to perennial rogue cop in a few of his recent roles) who I’m afraid will be indelibly etched in the minds of most as “Al Bundy”. And lastly, a relative newcomer, Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher & Biker Boyz) also appears.
The film starts out at an advanced Secret Service training academy secluded in the middle of nowhere, where a few recruits are preparing for an important and highly secretive mission. After most of the rigors of the training conclude, it becomes clear that young Agent Curtis (played by Derek Luke) is the successful candidate and is partnered up with seasoned, no nonsense Agent Robert Scott (played by Val Kilmer). They are both called in to head up the investigation concerning a kidnapping of a high ranking politician's daughter after the agent assigned to watch her negligently left his post to engage in a late night rendezvous with his girlfriend. Critical to the operation and the administration, is the need for the young girl to be located before the press gets wind of the abduction. As the story unravels, it becomes clear that they don’t necessarily have the support of their administration to ensure that the kidnapped girl is returned safely and the agents soon find themselves on the run.
To be honest, without filling the rest of the narrative with spoilers, it’s a difficult film to describe without giving too much of the movie away. If I were to compare this film to a meal, I would state upfront that I don’t like to be spoon fed. In this case, that was hardly a concern. Never mind the meal; there were no appetizers, not even an hors d’oeuvre. Nothing! When the meal finally arrived (about halfway through the film), I was no longer hungry – and somewhat uninterested. Little was done to fill us in as to who these agents were, what happened, who was kidnapped and why?!
While the intent was intrigue, unfortunately beyond even the slightest bit of character development, there simply wasn’t enough information to keep me interested… never mind intrigued. I watched this movie with high expectations but couldn’t help but feel the film lacked direction, in that, it was all over the place, stemming from the initial lack of introduction to the story and its characters. After we do finally get a grasp of what has happened and who has caused it, we’re served up with an ending, (besides that fact I’m sure it came from Tom Ridge’s, Homeland Security Office), that was incredibly clichéd and seemed very rushed and disjointed.
The Feature: 3/5
On the video side of things, this transfer looks fabulous and gets great marks. Presented in its OAR of 2.35:1, I have very little to complain about with regards to the look of the film.
First off, the colors looked vibrant and nicely saturated with an overall warm look to them. Blacks were as deep as imaginable and whites were always clean and stark and equally as impressive were skin tones which always appeared accurate. There was also an impressive amount of shadow detail.
As for image definition, the overall look of the image was extremely sharp throughout the entire film with only a couple of instances of softness. I noticed some softness with fixed images in the foreground, however, that wasn’t transfer related. There was a very pleasing level of dimensionality to this film which presented itself in a very film-like manner. There was only a hint of the finest grain possible which was negligible at best.
As we might expect, the print was immaculate – free of any dirt, dust or debris and the image was always rock solid. I could detect no signs of any compression artifacting or any edge enhancement.
This transfer is gorgeous and falls just short of perfection.
The soundtrack presented is a Dolby Digital track encoded in 5.1 and for the most part is pretty aggressive.
The track was always clean and free of any noise or other distracting anomalies. Dialogue was exceptionally clear and bold and always discernable. There was an outstanding amount dynamic range which was evident during a number of action sequences including a number of different gunshots. The film was scored by Mark Isham which elicited an appropriate mood of the film. As for the score, I wouldn’t necessarily describe the soundstage as spatial but would say it was sufficiently wide.
There was a healthy deployment of the surround speakers. The film has a ton of action scenes and the surrounds are tasked with a vast amount of surround material all of which added to the envelopment. There is also a healthy amount of LFE usage as well.
Not quite demo material, but certainly a better than average track.
Not much in terms of special features. There are two, starting with:
[*] A Commentary With Val Kilmer. I’ve said this many times before, but I feel that commentaries where the stars are the participants are usually the weakest and unfortunately, this is no exception. To be clear, Val spends a great deal of time talking about the filming experience and offers up some interesting tidbits relating to David Mamet, but he is rather methodical in his way of speaking which becomes somewhat exasperating with numerous amounts of dead time in between sequences. If you’re patient, there are tidbits here for the taking if you can bear the eccentricities of Mr. Kilmer.
[*] The only other special feature is the Theatrical Trailer which is decent and obviously in great shape. Duration: 1:59 minutes.
Special Features: 3/5
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**
Spartan is touted as being a “political thriller”, and the film does have an interesting and somewhat of a political plot to back up the intended storyline, but where it fails mostly, is its dialogue – at least intelligent dialogue. I would expect a political thriller to be clever in terms of dialogue, however, this film is far too dependant on action and the espionage-thing and whatever it takes (literally) to get us to the next scene.
Considering the writer/director and the film’s stars, perhaps I was expecting more. And that’s not to say this wasn’t an entertaining film, just don’t go into it thinking you’re in for an extremely well written, taut political thriller. It’s not. It’s a two hour action yarn with mediocre performances that should do a better than average job at keeping you and your significant other entertained on a Friday or Saturday night.
As for the presentation, Warner Bros. has done an outstanding job with another superb transfer which looks and sounds terrific even though the disc lacks any real substantive special features. The disc will serve as a worthy rental, but there’s very little need to own this one.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)
Release Date: June 15th, 2004