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Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Djimon Hounsou and Richard Harris
Directed by Ridley Scott

Gladiator is a sick movie. And I mean sick in the best possible way. If you haven't already, you should immediately rush out and see this film:

- Not because the storyline is good, clever, or believable (it's none of these things)

- Not because the acting is inspired or even decent (it's not, except for Russell Crowe who is generally pretty good)

- Not because there's any real message (there is but it's hokey and clichéd); gratuitous nudity (none), nor a solid, engrossing script (please).

You should go and see Gladiator for one reason and one reason only: the fight scenes.

Yes, it might seem vulgar, brutish or even immoral to drop $10.00 simply to watch a slew of leather-clad, flat-haired brutes go at each other for two and half hours, but trust me, it's well worth it.

The action sequences in this film are not merely about violence; they are intricately choreographed and beautifully shot, and take place in front of a number of impressive backdrops - foggy, ominous battlefields; sandy, blood-soaked pits; even the Coliseum itself, which, half re-built and half digitally re-constructed, looks pretty damn good.

Gladiator has be-headings, stabbings and stompings. People are cut in half, burned, and beaten to death. If all of this sounds morbid, it is. But that's kind of the point. Ancient Rome was a rough place, and, in a sense, the only way to really capture the essence of those times without appearing hokey (Gladiator's religious overtones), silly (Joaquin Phoenix's preening Commodus and his bizarre relationship with his sister) or absurd (Gladiator's numerous inaccuracies - death of Marcus Aurelius, Senate/emperor relationship, etc.), was to focus on how little value was placed on human life, where the 'civilized' society Rome claimed to be was nothing but a façade.

Or, if none of this subtext interests you, if you simply want to see a fairly obvious storyline buffered by some great effects and impressive gore, than by all means go and see this movie.

Either way you win.

--Russ Josephs

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