Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Spartacus

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
4 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Goran Visnjic as Spartacus
Rhona Mitra as Varinia
Alan Bates as Lentulas Agrippa
Assen Blatechki as Polymus
Stuart Bunce as Cornelius lucius
George Calil as Pompey
Ben Cross as Glabrus
James Frain as David
Jack Huston as Flavius
Chris Jarman as Nordo
Ross Kemp as Chinna
Paul Kynman as Crixus
Angus Macfadyen as Crassus
Ian McNeice as Batiatus
Georgina Rylance as Helena
Henry Simmons as Draba
Paul Telfer as Gannicus
Matthew Thrift as Caius
George Zlatarev as Jason

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Spanish and French Languages
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 2 Hours 57 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally a TV mini-series that aired in 2004. It is based on the novel by Howard Fast. Here's the description from the DVD cover:

"In 72 B.C. the Roman Empire swept through Europe, conquering countries and selling their citizens into slavery. One slave dared to take a stand: Spartacus. After witnessing his father's brutal murder and being sold into slavery, Spartacus (Goran Visnjic) vows to one day live as a free man. Leading 80 fellow slaves in a coordinated revolt, Spartacus and his men flee into the mountains. Alarmed by the growing slave insurrection, Roman politicians and generals vow to stop Spartacus at all costs. In the final battle of slaves versus Romans, Spartacus' epic fight for freedom becomes the stuff of legend."

Spartacus is not rated, but there is some bloody violence and a bare butt.

The Movie:
It's been a long time since I've seen the original Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas, so I can't really compare this film to that. But this TV mini-series sets itself apart from the earlier version and is quite entertaining. It's a mix of Gladiator and Braveheart with a little bit of The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur thrown in. Even if it is a bit predictable, it's an inspiring tale of freedom and the cost of winning it.

The film stars E.R's Goran Visnjic as Spartacus. He proves that he can handle an action film well in this role. Goran looks great in the gladiator battles and seems a natural born leader in the war scenes. He also handles the drama well and has good chemistry with Rhona Mitra as Varinia. I think this is the most that I've ever seen her act outside of The Practice. She certainly shows that she has talent here and that she's not just another pretty face. While I'm sure her character would have been killed for spurning the advances of Roman slave masters, she puts up a pretty good, brave fight here. Angus Macfadyen is also good as Crassus, the main Roman villain. When he's not scheming amid politics, he's on the battlefield hunting down our heroes. The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good as well.

This is production looks first rate. The costumes and environments look as good as anything seen in Gladiator. The computer generated Rome looks pretty good as well. The battle scenes are also appropriately epic in size and they are well choreographed. The scenes occasionally cut away from the action just when it starts, but generally you get to see a full scale battle like you would expect.

The Extras:
There's only one bonus feature included on this DVD and it's deleted scenes. There's 10 minutes worth here and, to be quite honest, they aren't that great. One of them is just a 10 second scene of Mitra bathing Spartacus. Another is stock footage of the slaves marching through the woods. The most notable are a few that expand on the story. One shows a scene where Crassus refuses to pay for the private Gladiator fight that he had staged. Another seems to imply that the Jewish gladiator David had a crush on Rhona Mitra's character. Another scene shows her smarting off to Crassus after he has been captured.

The Bottom Line:
If you're a fan of Goran Visnjic or Rhona Mitra or you liked Gladiator or Braveheart, then I think you'll probably enjoy this version of Spartacus. It might even inspire you to go back and watch the Kubrick version if you've never seen it.

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