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Are you not entertained charismatic Russell Crowe roars scornfully to the cheering crowd in the Roman Colosseum Certainly there hasnt been this kind of awesome sword-and-sandals spectacle since Spartacus Ben-Hur and Cleopatra Set in 180 AD Crowe plays Maximus a Roman general who promises his aging mentor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Richard Harris that as his appointed successor he will return power to the Senate thus restoring the Republic That infuriates Caesars evil envious son Commodus Joaquin Phoenix who becomes Emperor and orders Maximus execution But Maximus escapes becomes a slave and learns from an entrepreneur Oliver Reed how gladiators can fight their way to freedom and vengeance Thats when the excitement ignites For years Hollywood believed that historical epics were too expensive now high-tech computer wizards can digitally revive that classic genre Ridley Scott has cleverly recreated a mythic form in defiantly modern terms under the raw realistic influence of Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan meaning theres lots of gruesome bloody carnage plus surreal dreamlike glimpses of Elysium Whats most impressive is the gloriously detailed world Scott creates on-screen inhabited by characters whose emotional motivations come from a contemporary mentality These are real people coping with real problems in a brutal superheroic setting But there are weaknesses in David Franzonis story - like alluding to an unexplained affair between Maximus and Commoduss sister Connie Nielsen - and the overt almost comic villainy of Joaquin Phoenix whose power-hungry demeanor suggests a demented Richard III On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10 Gladiator is a savage sweeping spectacular 9 Thumbs up
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