Saturday, October 15, 2005

Clancy Ain't Got S**t on Me, Baby.

You know how you'll be reading a Tom Clancy novel (don't lie, I know you have), and there'll be like ten pages describing how the engine of a specific helicopter operates. So you just skim over it, scanning the pages until you see the name of a character you recognize? Spartan is like a Tom Clancy movie with all the military-dork stuff trimmed away.

Oh, and there aren't any ultra-patriots running around saving freedom, whereas in a Clancy novel every second character loves his goddamned country so goddamned much he could cry sweet manly tears, if that didn't go against everything his rigorous Special Ops training had instilled in him. So instead he just steals a quick look at the creased photograph of his pregnant wife, that he keeps inside the battered rucksack that was a gift from his father. The only gift the old man had ever given him. He still remembered the way Pops had saluted him the day he left for basic training in Okawanee...., sorry, got a little carried away there... anyways, there's none of that in Spartan. David Mamet wrote and directed it, so there's no lame-assed dialogue or character motivations cluttering up this sleek movie.

Val Kilmer plays Scott, an uber-agent searching for the President's daughter, who was abducted from college. Now, everybody has by now heard that Kilmer is apparently batshit crazy, right? That may be true (and may be why his dour, focused agent keeps referring to everyone as "baby"), but he keeps it on the rails in this movie, delivering a really strong performance. He's such a magnetic presence on screen, you kind of have to appreciate the fact that Hollywood didn't really manage to make him a Tom Cruise-ian type Star.

The story unfolds quickly and crisply, barely giving you time to process information before more is given. You know what, though? It was nice to watch a military/espionage thriller and not have to book time off work to finish it. It runs a slim 106 minutes, and feels much shorter, which is a good thing in this case.

And hey, Veronica Mars! I didn't even know Kirsten Bell was in it, so that was a nice surprise (although it was a little strange to hear her drop Mamet-style eff-bombs all over the place). The cast overall is great, as you would expect from a Mamet film, and yes William H. Macy shows up, as he is required to do everytime David Mamet picks up his camera.

"Yes, dear?"
"Why is Bill Macy standing behind Timmy in his birthday party video?"
"Oh, he heard I was shooting something, so he just showed up and started workshopping a scene he's been tackling. I think it's dynamite"

Oh, and how awesome is this alternate poster for the movie? It looks like Val Kilmer is starring in Black Rain 2: The Search For Curly's Gold. I think they made the right choice when they went with the other poster.

Val Kilmer is such a BAMF, though. Represent.


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