Spartan

David Mamet's political thriller about the disappearance of the president's daughter is an unsatisfying slipknot of a film — it looks tight and elaborate, but give it a tug and it goes flat. Pretty, wholesome Laura Newton (Kristen Bell) has vanished mysteriously from her Harvard dorm room, leaving behind an urgent tangle of questions. Where was her Secret...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

David Mamet's political thriller about the disappearance of the president's daughter is an unsatisfying slipknot of a film — it looks tight and elaborate, but give it a tug and it goes flat. Pretty, wholesome Laura Newton (Kristen Bell) has vanished mysteriously from her Harvard dorm room, leaving behind an urgent tangle of questions. Where was her Secret Service detail? Did the fight she had with her boyfriend over her new, spiky blonde hairdo escalate into violence? Is she having a secret rendezvous with the professor whose eye for pretty coeds is the talk of Harvard Yard? Or has Laura been kidnapped by enemies of the United States as part of some high-stakes political maneuver? White House point man Burch (Ed O'Neill) figures that Laura's absence can be kept quiet until she misses her first class. But once the press learns she's missing, her name and picture will be everywhere. Covert military officer Robert Scott (Val Kilmer) is one of dozens of government operatives called into action and as the fledgling investigation develops, an astonishing possibility arises: Laura was kidnapped, but not because she's the president's daughter. She was snatched by clueless agents of an international white-slave ring that supplies disposable young blonde girls to Middle-Eastern brothels. And if this is so, the ticking clock is more pressing than ever because Laura's abductors will undoubtedly kill her once they realize she's too hot to handle. Scott and his inexperienced partner, Curtis (Derek Luke), are hot on a trail of tantalizing clues when the mission is summarily aborted amidst TV-news reports that the bodies of Laura and the philandering professor have been pulled out of the waters off Martha's Vineyard. For Scott, the case is closed. But Curtis believes Laura is still alive, and Scott finds himself inexorably entangled in the usual Mamet web of lies, conspiracies and cynical betrayal. Not every actor can navigate the rhythm of Mamet's terse, profanely poetic dialogue; Luke takes to it as though to the mannerisms born, but Kilmer's struggles to make statements steeped in macho affectation sound natural bog down his performance and turn world-weary pronouncements into laugh lines. The film's weirdly hysterical undercurrent, epitomized by a veteran Secret Service agent's (Linda Kimbrough) emotional outburst reviling the First Family as "savages," meshes poorly with its bitter cynicism about ruthless political ambition; and genuine passion is so out of place in Mamet's house of games it seems comical.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: David Mamet's political thriller about the disappearance of the president's daughter is an unsatisfying slipknot of a film — it looks tight and elaborate, but give it a tug and it goes flat. Pretty, wholesome Laura Newton (Kristen Bell) has vanished myster… (more)

Show More »