Gladiator (2000) — Are you not entertained?

“On my signal, unleash hell.”

PoolMan’s rating: My kingdom for a sword. And shield. And trident. And net. Oh! And one of those wheelie deals with the horses!

PoolMan’s review: Mankind today isn’t that different from mankind of yesteryear. Sure, we have digital watches, microwaveable bacon, and roughly seven McDonalds per capita across the world, but how much have we really changed since the height of the Roman Empire? That might seem like a ridiculous statement to you, but all I really need to do is point at the WWF with its spectacle of violence and high ‘drama’, and suddenly there’s a note of validity. We (collectively) love violence. We always have, and I don’t care what Star Trek: The Next Generation says, we won’t be a utopian society by the 24th century if we don’t get rid of Stone Cold Steve Austin by then. So how much of a surprise is it that a modern day audience absolutely eats up a movie about the most violent bloodsport in history?

Now don’t get me wrong here. Keeping in mind everything I just said, Gladiator is one hell of a film. It was the first movie I put in my DVD player when I got it, and its on my shelf right now. But at the core of this excellent, dramatic movie beats a heart made of bloody steel.

Fight scene after fight scene, we follow the story of General Maximus (Russel Crowe) from the height of his military career into the depths of slavery as a gladiator. Initially he fights out of devotion to his beloved Caesar, (Richard Harris, not Justin’s doggy) Marcus Aurelius, to complete Rome’s occupation of the known world. But when Aurelius chooses Maximus to succeed him instead of his own son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the young prince murders his father, tries to have Maximus executed, and kills his family. Naturally, revenge consumes Max’s life, and though he is trapped and sold as a slave, he never takes his eye off the man who killed his family.

What really makes the movie for me is Russell Crowe. This flick could have fallen seriously short if not for his steely, determined performance. He constantly makes the audience sympathize with him, even when he’s knee deep in blood. It’s a raw performance, and one I really appreciated. (not as much as our own Clare, perhaps, but…)

Visually spectacular (the reconstituted Coliseum is amazing), emotionally engaging, and viscerally satisfying, Gladiator was one of the best movies of 2000. Although we don’t normally use old Oscar as our guide, 5 Academy Awards (out of 12 nominations) is nothing to sneeze at. Well received by critics and audiences, this is a movie that demands to be seen. If you haven’t already, you really should.

Didja notice?

  • During the battle with Tigris, Maximus’ sword and shield jump hands, most likely due to reversed film.
  • In the scene where Max pats down his horse, keep an eye out for a crew member in jeans.
  • I realize they’re not the same actor, but doesn’t the slave trader sound a LOT like Watto from Phantom Menace?
  • Fans of Conan the Barbarian may recognize Ralph Moeller, who played the big German, Hagen, from the TV series Conan.
  • Connie Nielsen found a 2000-year-old signet ring in an antique store, which she wears in the movie.
  • In the Colosseum scenes, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of people are computer-animated.
  • Among the chanting of the Germanic hordes at the beginning of the film are samples of the Zulu war chant from the film Zulu

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