Directed by David Mamet, starring Val Kilmer, William H Macy, Derek Luke, Ed O'Neill and Kirsten Bell.

Stranded between being an interesting thriller or an exciting action movie, 'Spartan' fails to deliver on both counts.

Robert Scott (Kilmer) is a spy for the US military. When Laura Newton (Bell), the daughter of a high-ranking government official, is kidnapped, his mission is to rescue her. Partnered with new recruit Curtis (Luke), Scott makes it clear to him from the outset that the military is not the place to make friends: he is simply there to find to follow orders and find the girl.

But this proves difficult when two high-ranking secret service officials, Burch (O'Neill) and Stoddard (an underused Macy), try to conceal vital information, which could hamper the mission. Scott and Curtis begin to believe that they have stumbled on something bigger than the kidnapping of one girl.

Although the script has all the elements of a convincing political thriller, it fails to use them. The opening scenes of the film take place after Newton has been kidnapped and this attempt to immerse the audience into the film doesn't work because there is no chance to build a relationship with her character.

Likewise, Scott is bitter and angry and as a hardened member of the US military he sticks to one rule - to follow the orders he's given. However, he abandons this belief early on in the film without facing any apparent moral dilemma and we never really discover why. When things prove difficult for Scott he acts more like a petulant child than the highly trained spy he's supposed to be.   

The main problem with 'Spartan' is that writer-director David Mamet is so concerned with getting as many twists and turns as possible into the film that he neglects building solid and believable characters. As with most thrillers, it is expected that people will be killed. But here it happens at such a rate, and to characters who have not yet been developed, that the deaths are ineffective.

To enjoy 'Spartan' one must accept that the script defies logic and try to take pleasure from some of the action. But as a thriller, it's uninteresting and lacklustre.

Eilish Barry