He penned such classics as The Untouchables and Glengarry Glen Ross, but David Mamet has yet to make a comparable mark as director. While his political thriller Spartan, starring Val Kilmer, is as slick and twisty as a presidential spin cycle, ultimately it falls victim to its own conceit. Kilmer is an anonymous government operative hired to find the daughter of a high-ranking politician, but the shroud of mystery is so thick around him, it's impossible to care.
A hard-nosed military man who heads a secret special ops force, Robert 'Bobby' Scott (Kilmer) has no family, no love life, no personal obligations - in short, no distractions. When he's assigned to track down Laura Newton (Kristin Bell), it becomes his reason for being and for the first time he goes beyond the call of the duty, risking life and career for the sake of his humanity.
"CONSTIPATED TOM CLANCY KNOCK-OFF"
The plot is unusually fast and efficient, but so are a lot of German cars. Ultimately the sophisticated mechanics and glossy veneer betray a passionless and, frankly, rather dull vehicle that's principally designed to get you from point A to point Z. By the time any of the characters begin to exhibit signs of normal moral remorse, they're either killed off or else the final credits have begun to roll.
They're made even more inaccessible by dialogue loaded with so much hip jargon and metaphoric posturing, it's laughable. Famed for his way with words, it's as if Mamet has tried to outdo himself here, but without the trademark humour that might've lifted this otherwise constipated Tom Clancy knock-off. This approach to storytelling isn't just Spartan, it's downright stingy.