Val Kilmer has been around the movie business for quite a long time now. I can still remember seeing him in Real Genius and Top Secret! , back in the day when he was a comedic actor. But when Top Gun came out in 1986, he was shown as the suave, sophisticated actor that would help him get many more dramatic roles down the line. In a film written and directed by David Mamet, Val Kilmer returns in a role that shows him from the gritty side of acting. Rather than being a clean cut detective, he plays a hard-nosed agent for the U.S. Government. Throughout the film, it is never made quite clear what branch he is working for, but with a background as a marine, I would hazard a guess that he was working for the NSA. Regardless of that fact, he is the type of person that is called in when things have gone so wrong, that the only thing left to do is send in one man to finish off the job. While not being the stereotypical agent, Kilmer is able to bring some originality to the role he takes on.
Val Kilmer stars as Agent Scott, who is called into the case of a missing girl that is very important. She has been guarded by the secret service, but for some reason her detail was not present, and she was kidnapped. It becomes the job of a team, helped by Spartan to make sure that she gets back, and that she gets back quickly and safely. It happens on a Friday night, and the biggest fear is that the press will get a hold of the story before they are able to follow down the leads that they have. The true nature of Scott is shown off in one of the opening scenes, in which the lead secret service agent is being interviewed as to why he was not at his post. He won't back down from his story that he never left the girls side, and Scott comes into the room claiming that he was the other man serving as back-up. Accusing the agent of lying, and putting at risk Scott's 15-year career, he charges the man and backhands him to the floor. This great acting job, convinces the agent to admit that he was not there, but at the same time shows the audience how far that Scott is willing to go to get to the truth.
This specific guard had pulled himself off, to go spend some time with his girlfriend. The only problem is, that the team investigating cannot figure out why the other guards were pulled at the same time. There are several theories that float to the surface involving her being kidnapped by her boyfriend, or by a teacher she had talked with who had a history of dating his students. All of them hold a little water, and the fact that she had recently died and cut her hair, and then gotten in a fight with her boyfriend puts him at the top of the list. The only problem, is that the boyfriend does not seem to be the type of person that could go through with something like this, and Scott quickly sees that they might be dealing with a situation more sinister than a girl being kidnapped by someone close to her. With no leads to go on, and the clock ticking, it suddenly becomes the task of Scott, and his new recruit to track down all the leads from places that the girl had frequented recently.
By a lucky break, they are able to track down a good lead, and subsequently follow up on someone who may have seen the girl. But, all the information that they have to go on, is that she was a short blonde. Is this the right girl? Or are they tracking down another missing girl who just happens to fit the same description? The title of the movie comes in to play, by the nickname that Scott is given in the field: Spartan. His key to success has been and is shown to be the art of deception. Not only is he very good at fooling criminals into thinking in a linearly logical line, but by acting out scenes, he is able to mold himself into a character that these criminals can trust, or see as one of their own. This is ideal for an agent who must go undercover and infiltrate different situations in order to come upon the answers that he is looking for. Because of this, some of the sequences in the film are very elaborate, and we are sitting there shocked as an audience not knowing quite what is going on.
William H. Macy plays another agent who is on the same detail that was in charge of the people being pulled off of the girl. He is in a normal role for his type of actor in order to bring some dramatic flair to a part that would otherwise be kind of boring to watch. Ed O'Neill from Married With Children, serves as the supervisor to everyone on the case, and is the type of person who would sell his own child if it meant that the country would be protected. Both men are willing to do anything to protect the mission that they have set out to do, and that mission isn't made completely clear to Scott throughout the movie. Instead, he is able to gleam bits and pieces of it through interactions with the different characters. Tia Texada plays the role of Jackie Black, who is also in the marines and is striving to do something special with her career. Throughout the movie, she is trying to show Scott just what she can do, and he whole intent, is to find some way to help him out on the case that he is working on. Texada comes a long way from her role on Third Watch, and I was very impressed with her acting here.
Spartan is one of those thrillers where the acting is very important to the outcome of the film. If the actors are not believable, then the story will not be believable to the audience either. It is to their credit, that the mixed cast does well in all of the roles of the main characters. Of course, the standout is Val Kilmer who really shines in the title role of the movie. He is not only calculating and cunning, but he has innovative methods to get the job done that don't rehash things that we have seen in other movies. The Director of this film also does not follow the formula that is usually used for kidnap-situation based movies. Instead, anyone and everyone can be a target, and by the end of the movie, there have been several scenes that have left you shocked at them happening. This is a great movie that never quite made it in the box office, and then ended up slipping to video very quietly. I highly recommend giving it a try, and you will not be disappointed.
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