½*/**** Image B+ Sound A- Commentary C+
starring Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy, Ed O'Neill
written and directed by David Mamet
by Walter Chaw Because we hate Arabs (and women almost as much as we think that Arabs hate women, those hateful Arabs), there are films like David Mamet's patently ridiculous, relentlessly offensive, unintentionally hilarious Spartan. A brilliant theatre man, the very definition of a keen cultural philosopher (his book of essays Some Freaks is must-reading), Mamet as film auteur has grown increasingly esoteric to the point now that his exclusive playpens of linguistic masturbation are so alien and self-conscious that they begin instantly to function as satires of themselves. His action is action as imagined by an egghead, all awkward movement and frustrated invective. His is the school of anti-casual cool, the drama club suiting up for the Friday night football game, and his supporters are cut from the same cloth, believing that there's a point to be made in Beckett for the brute while ignoring that Beckett is best staged with Spartan minimalism and left in the theatre besides. The films Mamet has directed range from sophomoric (House of Games) to grating (State and Main) to just incompetent (Heist), though Spartan reminds the most of one he only wrote: the wilderness howler The Edge, with its machismo over-examined and placed in a context that isn't allegorical as it must be, but hardboiled realism as it can't be. It's P.G. Wodehouse adapted for the screen by John Milius, and predictably awful.