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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer - The Statement, The Missing, Shattered Glass
  • Audio commentary - Val Kilmer

Spartan

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 102 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Without giving too much of the plot away, Spartan is a fast paced action thriller revolving around the kidnapping of Laura, the daughter of a high ranking official in the U.S. government. The secret service investigation to find the girl is assisted by veteran special operative Robert Scott (Val Kilmer) and green recruit Curtis (Derek Luke). As the investigation proceeds the disappearance of Laura is linked to a white slavery ring and takes some unexpected turns.

It is never explicitly stated but the daughter in question is quite possibly the first daughter and the high ranking government official, The President. This concept is the focus of much discussion and debate on the imdb forums, as are the firearms used in the movie, go figure.

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Have you seen this girl?

Kilmer is undoubtedly the star of the show with his Scott character taking up the majority of the screen time but the strong supporting cast play a small but significant role particularly relative newcomer Kristen Bell as the kidnapped daughter Laura and Derek Luke playing newbie cannon fodder and human shield like he was born to it.

Full of twists, turns and trademark Mamet snappy dialog Spartan keeps the intrigue and interest up through the full hundred minute running time.

  Video
Contract

The original theatrical release was shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the Region 1 version of the DVD was presented in the same ratio but for some odd reason the local release is using a 1.78:1 ratio.

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I can see right through the barrel. Cool!

While this would ordinarily lead us to believe that the sides of the image have been cut off and the picture zoomed in to reduce the ratio, this is actually not the case with this release. Instead what we have here is an open-matte version where we actually see more of the picture than the original 2.35:1 version gave (i.e. we see a close to 30% more picture at the top and bottom of the image).

While this may seem like a boon, itís really quite the opposite because we are not seeing the movie as the director had originally intended, we are seeing parts of the picture he deemed necessary to exclude and maybe itís not significant but it certainly was worth three paragraph of explanation.

Apart from the incorrect aspect ratio the transfer is excellent. The picture is clear and sharp, colours are bright and vibrant and shadow detail during the numerous night scenes is similarly excellent.

The only debate for the reader is if you prefer to see Ďmoreí of the picture without the black bars or if you want to see it as the director originally intended, itís similar to asking if you prefer pan & scan to widescreen, the answer should be obvious.

  Audio
Contract

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Remember your e-tag and have a good weekend.
While the original theatrical release of Spartan came with both a DTS and Dolby Digital track we are only given the courtesy of an English 2.0 track on this DVD. It seems like a slap in the face to down-mix any previously 5.1 audio track to 2.0 especially when you consider that the Region 1 version of this DVD has a 5.1 audio track.

Despite the obvious disappointment of getting an inferior audio track in the end Spartan is mostly dialog driven and a 2.0 mix is adequate to convey the dialog which is always clear and audible. However that is the extent of any positive comment for the audio track, surrounds are never used and the subwoofer remains dormant even during the traditional bass heavy helicopter fly-bys.

There is no excuse for this sort of mistreatment of the audio component of any modern movie on DVD and the lack of any subtitles at all is the final insult.

  Extras
Contract

The special features on this DVD consists of a commentary track and an assortment of theatrical trailers for other movies.

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Shallow Val.

Full length audio commentary by Val Kilmer
In my experience the norm for actor commentaries is that the actor or actors sit around, probably drinking and talk a lot of crap about hair, makeup and in-jokes for the entire length of the movie. Perhaps the odd titbit of information comes out through the course of the commentary but for the most part itís a complete waste of time, or at best, light entertainment.

Val Kilmer breaks the norm with this commentary by being insightful, informative and intelligent without being boring. His dry wit is also a refreshing change from the usual with comments like ďIf youíre listening to this and watching the film for the first time, youíre really strangeĒ and ďHi my name is Val Kilmer and thatís all I have to sayĒ followed by significant silence (you probably had to be there).

As actors commentaries go, this one is excellent, it even stands up compared to some of the best director commentaries Iíve heard, well worth a listen.

Trailers for The Statement, The Missing and Shattered Glass
are a token effort, all presented in widescreen format.

  Overall  
Contract

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Strap yourself in for the ride.
I wasnít expecting much from Spartan but it was a real surprise, Val Kilmer has a career spotted with bad role choices and bad acting, but this movie is an exceptional example of what he can do in the right hands, in this case the hands of Director David Mamet.

Unfortunately a great movie has been put through the Region 4 DVD marketing machine and spat out the other side with a substandard presentation.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=4563
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      And I quote...
    "An interesting and intriguing thriller, well written and well acted but given a sub-standard DVD treatment, such a shame."
    - Chris Hore
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-676A
    • Projector:
          BenQ PB6100
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V995
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale Diamond
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wharfedale Modus
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale Diamond
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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