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Gladiator (2000)

Some sought glory, fame and honour. He came for revenge.

Directed by:

Ridley ScottRidley Scott

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 155 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Russell Crowe is Maximus, and what a bloke he is. Of all the ex-‘Neighbours’, he’s easily the hardest – and that includes you, Helen Daniels. If you called him a sissy, he’d snap your worthless neck like a twiglet. If there were trucks around in Ancient Rome, he’d make like Jeff Capes and pull them around by his teeth, just for the sake of it. He’s harder than the whole of Germany, and almost as efficient. His voice is so deep, passing bears think he’s one of their own. Some mornings he doesn’t even bother shaving. He. Is. Hard.

And so, having set the scene, this is his whopping great two-and-a-half-hour story. It’s 180AD and, having been hailed as Rome’s greatest ever General by Caesar (Richard Harris) after nearly three years of solid battle, he decides to go home for a bit and put his feet up. The only thing is, home turns out to be not quite as he remembers it. His wife and son have been slaughtered, his house burned down, and some sods on horses have trampled all over his garden.

From then on it’s Mad Maximus time, but extracting his revenge is going to be easier said than done – especially as he goes and gets himself taken prisoner by slave-traders and then sold as a Gladiator to Oliver Reed (here in his last role – he died during filming).

It’s an epic tale of action, treachery, sister-fancying and big animals, and it’s virtually impossible not to be struck by the sheer grandeur of the whole thing. Crowe is a perfect choice to play the grunting, humourless lead, and there’s some great support from Joaquin Phoenix as his snivelling nemesis Commodus.

Whether it’s really as good as its five Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Actor) would suggest is of course another matter. I personally feel Ridley Scott’s hazy, unfocussed direction lets the film down, and the battle scenes aren’t a patch on those seen in the likes of Braveheart, ‘Rob Roy’ or any of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ flicks. It also cries out for the sort of comic relief Alan Rickman brought to ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ as the Sheriff of Nottingham: Phoenix’s character would have been the perfect outlet for a bit of humour, but the script lets him down.

Engrossing, not entertaining, is possibly the best way to describe the final product here. It’s an awe-inspiring spectacle with a good story, if lacking in good writing to go along with it, and few are likely to find it dislikeable. Least of all fans of gruff-voiced armour-wearing man-heroes.

It's Got: Strength and honour. And an impeccably-trimmed fringe.

It Needs: An occasional sprinkling of light-heartedness to help keep things moving along.

DVD Extras It’s a 2-disc behemoth, including ‘The Making of Gladiator’, director’s commentary, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a 50 minute ‘Learning Channel’ documentary on Roman Blood Sport, a profile on composer Hans Zimmer, a montage of deleted stuff, ankle-biter Spencer Treat Clark’s production journal (Monday morning: ate some sweets, Monday afternoon: watched cartoons, Monday night: sacked my PA, etc), original storyboard comparisons, stils gallery, trailers, production notes and castographies! It’ll literally take you days to plough through that lot. DVD Extras Rating: 10/10

Alternatives:

Ben Hur, Braveheart, Rob Roy, Spartacus

Summary

Caesar himself would probably give it the thumbs up – even though it’s apparently a myth that they did that.

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