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"Gladiator"

Directed by Ridley Scott.
Written by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson. 
Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix and Connie Nielsen.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  5/6/00 

Folks--

The summer movie season has begun!  What better way to break in the new summer than with a big-budget action movie?  Since I am flying to see Fayette "New Kent" Powers today in Miami

YO, MIAMI?  SHIT, IS MIAMI OUR NATION'S GREATEST CITY, OR WHAT?

I must admit, Miami is probably my favorite place to go; three words, my friends:  the clubs are phlat-out hot!  Anyway, I figured I would slap this review together before hopping a plane and experiencing the best shopping and sights (of beautiful people, of which I am not one) that an e-saver can buy.

Charles "The Fox" Longer, his always-engaging girlfriend Teresa, Jordan "Jaybee" Benjamin, and your hero and mine, Gordon "The Professional" Stokes went to catch "Gladiator" over at DC's mecca theater, the Uptown (and, Bellview member Robin "Swingin' for the Fences" Pinnel was in the house as well).  Thanks to the quick wits of the Longer, we bought tickets online through Moviefone.com about 30 minutes before they sold out at the box office.  And, our crowd, the rowdy sold-out audience, and one hell of a movie came out to Bellview's highest rating:  Opening Weekend!

Russell Crowe (I want to reiterate the name of Crowe's American debut, also unofficially known as Denzel's worst movie ever:  "Virtuosity") has officially made it to the big time.  He carries the whole movie on his back as Maximus, the general of the Roman army around 180 AD that leads his troops to victory after victory across the continent.  When the current Caesar (Richard Harris, "Unforgiven" amongst other things) has to make a decision over who will become the next emperor of the kingdom, he prefers Maximus over his own son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), since Commodus is planning to form his rule over his personal vision, rather than the vision of the people of Rome.  Commodus becomes wise to the plan and kills his father before Maximus can accept the throne; in the same night, Commodus (the heir to the throne, and therefore, the new emperor) orders Maximus to be killed immediately.

Being that this is a movie, Maximus escapes certain death only to be captured and forced into slavery.  With the help of Proximus (Oliver Reed), a former gladiator and current slave trader, Maximus becomes a bad-ass gladiator in tune-up battles in some smaller Roman provinces before taking on the big-time:  fighting gladiator battles in the Colosseum of Rome, with the opportunity of exacting vengeance on the man that forced him into his situation...Commodus.

Now, I'm leaving a lot of the plot details out because Bellview policy states that I won't ruin the movie for you in these reviews.  But, of things that I will talk about, first off is Crowe.  After playing a fat bastard in his Oscar-nominated role and film "The Insider", he dropped 40 pounds and looks like he lifted weights everyday to play the title character of this movie.  I think this is a win-win for the sex debate:  this is clearly being marketed as a guy movie...and, from the two females that were in our party, Crowe was looking pretty hot and more than kept their attention.  But, since Crowe is a great actor, he plays the dramatic scenes very well and you really get behind him and his quest for revenge.  Secondly, the story.  Lest you think this is just a straight "The Last of the Mohicans"/"Braveheart" ripoff, you should know that this movie has a better story than both.  I was expecting to just sit back and watch heads get lopped off for two hours, but instead, I got a 150-minute movie with a bunch of story and a couple of interesting sideplots to follow when Maximus wasn't whoopin' ass in the arenas.  A very pleasant surprise.  And, the music was really rousing, in my mind...but, the legendary "The Last of the Mohicans" soundtrack is still better than the tunes here.

Now, you ask, how were those battle scenes?  In my mind, very, very well done.  The best part about them is the camerawork.  Although you can tell that people are getting impaled, gutted, crushed, etc., the camera is moving just fast enough for you to see the action taking place without really seeing how bloody a chariot driver's flattened body really is.  Now, don't get me wrong:  heads are flying on some occasions (the best being the absolutely awesome Maximus two-handed sword maneuver in his second provincial battle scene--the audience in our theater was cheering), arms are lopped off, torsos are split and a lot of people get a sword in the chest.  But, in movies like "The 13th Warrior", it felt gratuitous; here, it seemed like there was some semblance of a purpose.  And, the battle scenes in Rome are all pretty much awesome, and the feeling that the Colosseum battles were like playing in the Super Bowl struck me as a funny irony to how Proximo talked about the events, with his "50,000 members of a screaming mob" soliloquy.  Great stuff.

Any negatives?  Well, it is a bit long, and I guess that I didn't think about it until I needed to hit the head like it was my day job for the last hour and a half of the movie.  NOTE TO SELF:  USE THE BATHROOM BEFORE THIS MOVIE STARTS!  And, some of how this movie works reminded me a lot of "Blade", the Wesley Snipes/Stephen Dorff action movie from '98.  Dorff could have played the Commodus role a bit better than Phoenix did...but, this is a minor beef.

See this movie with a big audience...you'll feel like you are in the Colosseum cheering the good guys on yourself.

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09