"An example of how to make a non-boring political suspense thriller"
After coming home from a viewing of the rather disappointing remake of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, I discovered that a copy of David Mamet's SPARTAN had arrived in my mailbox courtesy of the good people at Netflix. Still craving a political-style thriller that wouldn't put me to sleep at the halfway mark, I decided to give it a spin and was not disappointed.Val Kilmer plays Robert Scott, a special forces operative who is called upon to serve as a field agent when the daughter of a high-ranking politician (presumably The President, but never specified) goes missing. Using a combination of subterfuge and brute force, Scott follows the missing girl's trail to a gang of abductors who specialize in young blonde women for the middle-eastern white slavery market. At first, the abduction seems to be a fluke, with the kidnappers not recognizing who their captive is. But as Scott gets closer to the girl, he discovers an entanglement of conspiracy and coverup that goes beyond a random kidnapping by a few Islamic whoremasters.
As can be expected with the average David Mamet film, the dialogue is sharp, crisp, and sometimes rapid-fire - even if it's not always natural-sounding. Kilmer manages to give a performance that's effective and subdued without becoming wooden, and gives Scott an unpredictable edginess that is refreshing. He's the kind of guy who won't hesitate to break someone's arm or take out their eye, once it's become obvious that talking and bribing won't get the required results.
Kilmer is backed by an engaging cast, including Derek Luke and Tia Texada as a pair of soldiers eager to assist Scott up in his attempts to find the girl, and Kristen Bell as the kidnapped first daughter who has an axe to grind with daddy. William Macy also pops his head in the door for the second act in what appears to be a mere cameo, only to resurface later in a bit of "out of left field" casting.While SPARTAN isn't as dialogue-heavy or character driven as most of Mamet's work, it moves at a steady clip, boasting a smart (if at times slightly far-fetched) narrative, a few surprising twists, and some respectable action sequences. It's not exactly GLEN GARY GLEN ROSS with gunfights, but it'll do.