Spartan (film)

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Spartan movie.jpg
Directed by David Mamet
Produced by David Bergstein
Moshe Diamant
Art Linson
Elie Samaha
Written by David Mamet
Starring Val Kilmer
Derek Luke
William H. Macy
Kristen Bell
Tia Texada
Ed O'Neill
Music by Mark Isham
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • January 31, 2004 (2004-01-31) (Bangkok)
  • March 12, 2004 (2004-03-12)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million
Box office $8,112,712

Spartan is a 2004 American political thriller film written and directed by David Mamet. It features Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Tia Texada, Ed O'Neill, William H. Macy, and Kristen Bell. It was released in the United States and Canada on 12 March 2004.


Robert Scott is a former Force Recon Master Gunnery Sergeant, acting as a selection cadre member for Delta Force. While observing an exercise designed to evaluate Delta candidates, Scott meets a recruit, Curtis, as well as Sergeant Jacqueline Black, a knife-fighting instructor. Both ask Scott to keep them in mind for future missions.

Scott is drawn into a clandestine operation to find Laura Newton, the President's daughter, who is missing. The team has two days to locate her before the media reports her absent from her classes at Harvard.

They begin by investigating one of her professors, with whom she may have had a relationship, as well as her boyfriend. Their search takes them to a bar where girls are recruited as prostitutes, and Scott's team follows a middleman to a bordello that funnels some of these girls to an international sex slavery ring. The madam gives them a contact number leading to a pay phone, and the records of that phone lead Scott and Curtis to a beach house. Scott tries to bluff his way past one man in the house, but a second man approaches armed, forcing Scott and Curtis to kill both men before they can learn anything more.

Calls placed to the pay phone are traced back to Tariq Asani, a Lebanese national currently in federal prison for kidnapping. They plan to stage a robbery to intercept Asani during a prisoner transport and gain information from him about the sex trafficking operation, of which they believe he is a part.

When the car carrying Asani and another prisoner stops at a gas station en route to its destination, Scott shows up and appears to kill the transport guard, then kills the other prisoner (who was on death row). He spares Asani when Asani says he can get them on a plane out of the country that night. Asani then offers Scott a girl as thanks for his help, and with a little digging from Scott Asani confirms the sex slavery ring is based in Dubai, where all the girls are ultimately sent.

Scott stops at a convenience store to relay the information to the team. Curtis provides him with more ammunition, but Asani, waiting in the car, happens to spot the badge of another agent talking with Curtis and opens fire. Curtis is wounded and Scott has to kill Asani.

As the team prepares a stealthy assault on the ring's base in Dubai, a news broadcast reports that Laura and her college professor were discovered drowned while sailing off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. The rescue operation is called off. Scott returns home, but Curtis tracks him down there and persuades him that Laura couldn't have been killed in the boating accident because he saw the sign. Scott asks him, "what sign?" Curtis draws the sign that Laura is known to use on Scott's hood. As further proof, he shows Scott an earring that was caught in his mat from the beach house identical to the ones Laura is wearing in a news photograph.

When they return to the beach house to investigate, Curtis is killed by a sniper. Scott evades the sniper by putting his jacket on a scarecrow that was already there, and then throwing it so that the sniper would think that he'd killed him. After Scott finds Laura's unique sign in a window in the beach house indicating she was there, he realizes that she isn't dead. He takes his pager and phone apart and finds tracking device. He makes his way to a payphone, and places a call to the Chinaman. He tells him to yoke him out, that he needs new set of clothes from the skin out, and a full set of papers. He then States that the Chinaman needs to get him to the tall corn. After evading the sniper, Scott tries to contact Laura's mother, who is visiting a secluded rehab facility, with the evidence, but he is intercepted by a female Secret Service agent assigned to guard the First Family. When he shows the agent the earring, the agent explains that for years the President has used visits to his daughter as a cover for extramarital affairs, and that he pulled Laura's Secret Service detail to use as extra protection for himself during the latest trip. Without her protection, Laura was abducted by the sex ring.

The agent pleads with Scott to rescue Laura. She shows Scott photos of herself with Laura as a child, insisting she helped raise the girl. She tells Scott the girl's parents have been assured by their handlers that the girl is dead because rescuing her would cause the truth about the president's behavior to become public and cause a scandal.

Scott enlists Sgt. Black to help him rescue the girl from Dubai. Cut off from his team, Scott turns to Avi, a former Israeli operative now working in the private sector. Avi agrees to get him into Dubai and get Laura out concealed in a cargo container, obtaining weapons for him and support from a man known as Jones, an Australian mercenary.

Jones is killed during the rescue. Scott flees with Laura to a safe house, where he persuades her that although he is alone, he is acting under orders. Correctly guessing that he is really acting on his own, Laura says that King Leonidas of Sparta would respond to requests for help from neighboring kingdoms by sending one man, and decides to trust him.

When he takes Laura to the airport to seal her in the cargo container, Scott discovers he is being tracked when he finds a transmitter hidden in his knife. He rushes her out of the container just as his old team arrives to apprehend them. Scott is shot and separated from Laura, who is captured and taken away.

Scott is pursued by Stoddard, a member of his team, who reveals that Laura could have lived in captivity but must now be killed to maintain the cover story. When Laura fights back, her captor reveals herself as Sgt. Black, who shows her the earring and photos from the Secret Service agent, convincing Laura to stop struggling. A Swedish news crew witnesses the struggle as they are about to board their own plane nearby, and recognize Laura. Sgt. Black is shot by Stoddard, and a hysterical Laura is hustled to safety aboard the journalists' plane. Just as the jet takes off, Stoddard's throat is slit by Scott.

Later, on a London city street, Scott is shown watching a news broadcaster on a television in a shop window. It is reported that Laura's death was faked as a cover for her rescue. The government spins the story of Laura's kidnapping as an opportunity for the President to take action to end the trafficking of American girls as sex slaves.


Origin of title[edit]

Spartan's title makes multiple allusions:

  • King Leonidas I, of Sparta, is said to have sent one soldier when a neighboring state requested military aid.
  • As Scott says, "One riot, one Ranger". Previously, Mamet used that dialogue in House of Games; and it has subsequently been used in The Unit. The remark is said to be Texas Rangers lore.
  • The film's minimalist style, from the characters' clipped dialogue; to its music (violin and, later, bagpipes, used sparingly); to Mamet's efficient resolution of a plot line that frequently (and intentionally) threatens to become unwieldy.
  • The recurring use of dialogue reinforcing the basic story line -- "Where is the girl?", "I'm here to get the girl back", "Is she safe?", etc. -- intended to emphasize the minimalist narrative style that the film's title evokes.
  • The automatic knife used in the film is "The Spartan" by Severtech and was designed for this film.[1]


The Dubai locales were actually filmed in Los Angeles. Eric L. Haney, a retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major who operated in Delta Force, was the technical advisor, and briefly appears. After Spartan, he and Mamet created The Unit television series about an Army unit mirroring Delta Force.

Alexandra Kerry, daughter of then U.S. Senator (now secretary of state) John Kerry, is a bartender in the film. David Mamet's Rabbi, Mordechai Finley, appears as one of the training cadre.


Spartan received mixed but generally good reviews and has a score of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes and 60% on Metacritic. Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a four-star rating saying that "The particular pleasure of 'Spartan' is to watch the characters gradually define themselves and the plot gradually emerge like your face in a steamy mirror."[2] Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph felt the film was let down by a "botched" finale, "as though Mamet felt obliged to reproduce a standard-issue Tom Clancy climax while knowing that this wasn't the way to go."[3]


  1. ^ Riley, Aaron (2004). "Severtech Knives Proudly Announces "The Spartan"". Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (12 March 2004). "Spartan Film Review". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  3. ^ Robey, Tim (6 August 2004). "House of cards tumbles down". The Daily Telegraph. 

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