The story follows Bobby Scott (Kilmer), a government secret agent charged with finding and recovering the kidnapped daughter (Bell) of the U.S. president, who is partnered with the new recruit Curtis (Derek Luke). Scott is obedient and cold when it is necessary, but quickly discovers a much larger and more sinister political scheme.
Spartan has been labelled by some as "the thinking man's thriller", and has a moody and slow-paced atmosphere. The film received mixed to good reviews, particularly regarding the ending.
This film provides examples of:
- Amateur Sleuth: Curtis.
- Anyone Can Die: A lot of people around Bobby Scott tend to end up dead, and rather suddenly. Most notably, Curtis being shot by an unknown sniper.
- Anti-Hero: Bobby Scott is shown as cold and relentless when it comes to getting the job done. However, when finding the truth behind the daughter's kidnapping, he follows his conscience.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Scott uses his importance as a secret agent to do, and get away with, many morally questionable things.
- Bittersweet Ending: Bobby manages to rescue the president's daughter, but his ally Sergeant Black is killed amongst the chaos. Also, he gets zero recognition for his rescue and outcasts himself to another country.
- Blasting It Out of Their Hands: This happens quickly in one scene, in which Bobby is being shot at and one hits his submachine gun. He visibly shows pain, but ultimately isn't harmed and manages to pull out his sidearm.
- Chekhov's Knife: The knife Bobby shows one of the Marines in the bar is the same knife in which the Marine plants a bug in so Stoddard can follow his every move when Bobby is trying to find Laura.
- Chekhov's Photo: The photograph the Secret Service agent shows Bobby of her and Laura Newton together is the same one Sergeant Black shows Laura to convince her she's there to rescue Laura.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: A variation. After killing one of the convicts Bobby pulls the trigger with the shotgun pointed at the other one. The firearm is empty but he does it to intimidate and get information from the convict.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: We briefly see one of these early in the movie.
- Duel to the Death: Curtis goes through one of these as a graduation process to the Delta Force.
- Eye Scream: Bobby orders Curtis to take out a man's eye when he's not giving up the information they want. It doesn't actually happen, as he spills the beans before the deed is done. It's left open whether it was a scare tactic or a real possibility.
- Faking the Dead: The president's handlers decide to fake the death of the daughter to draw attention away from an affair he was having, which could make him lose a lot of popularity with the public. Also Bobby does this to get away from the sniper who has him pinned down.
- Government Conspiracy
- Gray-and-Gray Morality
- I Gave My Word: Jones assists Bobby in the actual rescue despite their deal not requiring him to in order to prove that he didnít tip off their targets (whoíve amped up security) about Bobby, and contributes a lot to the fight.
- Like a Son to Me: A Gender Flipped version - the Secret Service agent who pleads Bobby to find Laura tells him she raised Laura for all intents and purposes, and shows him a photo of the two of them together. She even declares at one point, "I'm her mother!"
- Living Macguffin: Though no one says it out loud, it's pretty clear this is what Laura Newton is.
- Mamet Speak: Being a Mamet film, this is expected. Also combined with a lot of Spy Speak.
- Master of Disguise: Bobby doesn't change much of his physical appearance, aside from his clothes, when he occasionally takes on a different role. His mannerisms and way of speaking, though, are done in a way that's likely to manipulate others and fit the situation.
- Military Alphabet
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Bobby roughs up Jerry and breaks his arm in order to get information from him.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Discussed when Laura wants to know why only Bobby came to get her:Bobby: "One riot, one ranger". You ever heard that?
Laura: Leonidas, King of Sparta, when a neighboring state would plead for military aid, would send one man.
Bobby: Well, there you go.
Laura: You ever hear that?
Bobby: No. I think we went to different schools.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Though perhaps not quite as close as other examples, Bobby Scott could be seen as Blue Oni and Curtis as Red Oni.
- Semper Fi: Bobby is an ex-Marine, while Sgt. Black is currently in the Marines. This is why she prevails on him to let her help rescue Laura, and why he turns to her when there's no one else he can trust.Sgt. Black: (after Bobby explains the situation to her) Ain't nobody here but two people in green.
Bobby: It goes beyond that.
Sgt. Black: Nothing goes beyond that.
- Sex Slave: The kidnapped daughter is forced into sex slavery in Dubai, though how much happened before she gets rescued is uncertain.
- The Smart Guy: Curtis shows some of this during the initial operation in addition to being a capable fighter. Itís reinforced afterwards when he figures out the truth about the cover-up before The Hero does and is the one to convince him of it.
- Staged Shooting: Bobby stages the shooting of a police officer and gas station owner to fool two convicts into thinking he's a criminal.
- Storefront Television Display: At the end, we see one of these where a TV anchor (David Paymer) does the story of Laura returning home after being rescued, while a disguised Bobby watches this in an unknown city, in an unknown country.
- Think Nothing of It: When Laura thanks Bobby for coming to get her, he responds, "Ah, what the hell."
- Viewers Are Geniuses: This movie is notable for not explaining many key details about what is occurring and simply showing things from the perspective of the characters without detail which forces the audience to figure out what exactly is occurring.