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Gladiator
2000 - R - 156 Mins.
Director: Ridley Scott
Written By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed
Review by: John Ulmer
   
I originally saw "Gladiator" (2000) in the year of its release, and after seeing the movie again last night, my position on the film has not changed. I did not like it three years ago, and I still do not like it. Back then I was not reviewing on a professional basis--in fact, I had just started submitting comment/recommendation reviews on the Internet Movie Database. I gave "Gladiator" a bad comment and moved on. Now I can criticize it a bit deeper.

"Gladiator" stars Russell Crowe as Maximus, a Roman soldier who conquers in practically any and every battle. Caesar (Richard Harris) likes Maximus, and so he decides to give the throne to him after he dies and not to his immoral and irresponsible son (Joaquin Phoenix, who played Merrill in "Signs," a much better movie).

However, when Caesar's plans are revealed to his son, he murders his father and takes his place as Caesar, commanding Maximus to be taken out into the woods to be murdered. However, Maximus, being the great soldier that he is, escapes and flees back home to his wife and child--only to find them burned alive and hanging dead outside the house.

Maximus eventually comes into custody and is thrown in a gladiatorial arena, where he becomes the main star, killing and conquering in every battle. Soon he is like a modern day baseball player--fans line up outside the Colosseum just to see him before the battles begin.

Soon the new Caesar finds out who the great gladiator really is, and so turmoil begins. The new Caesar's sister (Connie Nielsen) once loved Maximus, so that is thrown in for good measure, too. While we're at it, let's throw in some futuristic battleships, robots and space aliens that Maximus can fight in the sequel, when he comes back from the dead. (And I'm not kidding about the following--a prequel is planned.)

The movie is slow, and when it picks up speed it goes nowhere. It seems like a rip-off of "Braveheart" from beginning to end--a soldier's family is murdered and he takes revenge on the man/nation who killed them by fighting. Granted, he has no choice but to fight in "Gladiator," but still...

The movie was directed by Ridley Scott, the Englishman who directed "Alien," "Blade Runner" and, among more recent films, "Matchstick Men." He's a talented director with an eye for atmosphere, but his films don't always work because sometimes his atmosphere gets the better of him--like in "Gladiator." The surroundings are dull, bleak and heartless. "Braveheart" had some ounce of beautiful settings, and Mel Gibson used long, wide lens shots of Scotland. Here we just get what we are presented with. And when the camera does pull back to give us the full picture, it's usually packed with very bad CGI effects of Colosseums and such.

And Russell Crowe. How did he ever win (and I do mean it when I say "win") an Oscar for this mess? He delivers every line with the same monotone deadness in his voice as thirty minutes earlier in the film. He is and remains one of my least favorite actors, both on and off the screen. And if he wants to beat me up for saying mean things about him (as he usually does to people), he can just come over to my house and try. The greasy-haired baboon.

The dialogue in the movie. Oh my! Things are said that you expect to read in a letter from a six-year-old to his/her parents. (I was just waiting to hear, "My family is dead. I am sad.")

To be honest, there were a few good moments in "Gladiator." It has some impressive fight scenes, including one with two men fighting while tigers leap out of cages built underneath the sand of the arena floor and lunge for the battling duo. I must say that I came close to recommending the movie at certain times. But then it would slow down its pace again and turn into some sort of large-budget cornball. I understand that many people love this movie. Give me "Braveheart" any day.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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