crwise might have been an all-too-faniiliarrnnarrative arc. The formidable inwardnessrnof his acting makes ns feel his character’srnheartbreak and brooding angerrnever)- step of the way.rnWhen Maximns, badly wonnded, escapesrnhis vvordd-be execntioners, he fallsrninto the hands of Proximo, a former gladiator.rnThis impresario of the arena buysrnand trains slaves to butcher or bernbutchered for the enjoyment of the mob.rnOliver Reed, who died before the filmrnwas finished, gives Proximo the ruthless,rnfrightening cynicism one would expectrnof such a flesh peddler. It is further testimonyrnto the strength of Maximns’rncharacter that he is able to draw forth thernvestigial humanity residing in this monster.rnAlthough Maximus is visibly disgustedrnby the spectacles in which he must participate,rnhe proves invincible in the arena,rnhi one scene, he dispatches five opponentsrnin a row and then turns to therncheering crowd, demanding, “Arc yournnot entertained? Is not this why you’rernhere?” He then hurls his sword into thernRoman equivalent of the box seats. Hernfeels no elation in his bloody deeds. Hisrnopponents meant to kill him, and he didrnwhat was necessary. For the audiencernthat applauds his murders, he feels nothingrnbut contempt.rnCrowe plays these gladiatorial scenesrnwith none of the now conventional, muscle-rnbound Schwarzenegger posturing.rnHe is stocky and doesn’t have the striatedrnjody of today’s g’m-trimmed performers.rnHis movements, hov’cver, display anrn?conom- of effort noticeable in the bestrnithletes. He conveys perfectly the un-rn;ann’ strength that’s possible when mus-rn.’le, mind, and spirit work in harmony.rnThe die is cast when Proximo takesrn^/laximus to Rome to compete in thern;ames Commodus is holding. Here,rnmid Scott’s marvelously computer-genratedrneternal city, with its temples, Scute,rnand Colosseum, the inevitable showownrnwill take place. It is the film’srnonceit that Commodus revived gladia-rn)rial spectacles his father had banned.rnctuallv, the games were standard farernndcr both men.) He docs so in order tornandcr to the degenerate tastes of thernlob. Like a modern politician, he seeksrn1 win their loving approval, thereby con-rn)lidating his power. His strateg)’ stumcs,rnhowever, once Maximus shows uprnid proves his mettle in the arena. Thernowd instantly switches its allegiance tornic former general. To his chagrin,rnCommodus realizes he has inadvertentlyrnempowered his old enemy. The principledrnMaximus, on the other hand, at firstrnremains unimpressed by his sudden po]>rnularity. Wlien Commodus’ sister, Lucillarn(Connie Nielsen) tells him of his growingrninfluence, he scornfully retorts, “Irnonly have power to amuse the mob.”rnKnowing better, she replies, “That isrnpower.” Had Lucilla actually said this,rnher renown for prescience would certainlyrnstill resonate among today’s poll-taking,rndemographically sophisticated politicalrnscientists, and her image woidd surehrngrace every televised report from the NewrnYork Tn77es-CBS survey bureau.rnIn the last 20 minutes, the film’s melodramarnalmost descends to bathos. But byrnthis time, I was so taken with Maximusrnand his mission that I stopped askingrntpiestions and went with it. Afterward,rnhowever, I couldn’t help wondering whyrnScott didn’t take a small portion of hisrn$IOi million budget and hire writersrnwith enough wit to tell the story and respectrnhistory at the same fime. 1 he film’srnscrambling of facts is distracting. Alongrnwith the discrepancies alreadv mentioned,rnriiere is the completel}’ gratuitousrndecision to make Conunodus behavernlike his distant imperial predecessor,rnCaligula. Commodus makes eyes at hisrnsister and demands they marr)’, as Caligularndid with his sister, Drusilla. If this fictionrnis meant to demonstrate how perverselyrndistant Commodus is from therndccenc’ Maximus exemplifies, the behaviorrnof the historical Commodus needsrnno embellishment. Wliile there’s no indicafionrnhe harbored any untoward interestrnin his sister, he kept a harem of -SOOrnwomen and as many boys to satisfy- hisrnwhims. Perhaps Scott judged such gender-rnneutral promiscuit) no longer sufficientlyrnoffensive to contemporary tastes.rnThis movie carries an “R” rafing. It’srnfor violence only. Except for a few eyerollingrninnucndos Commodus practicesrnon his entirely imresponsivc sister, thernfilm is positively chaste when it comes tornsexual matters. /s for violence, there’s farrnless fiian reported. Several reviewers inrnthe more refined press have squealedrnabout lopped limbs and cracked skulls.rnThey’re simply not on the screen. Suchrnimages reside nowhere but in the overheatedrnimaginations of our would-bernmoral guardians, the very same criticsrnwho sing praises for such muck as AmericanrnBeauty and American Psycho. Mostrnof the violence in Gladiator is the productrnof camera work and film editing.rnScott has shot the battles closeh with mobilernand hand-held cameras and editedrnhis footage with a pace that D.W. Criffithrnand Sergei Eiscnstein would have appreciated.rnThis makes the arena scenesrnseem unnervingly wild, but it’s all suggestion.rnAs the carnage supposedly takesrnplace, we often don’t see much morernthan a blur of motion. Scott relies morernon the resources of his medium and lessrnon the special-effects department, whichrneasily could have provided him with facsimilesrnof butchered bodies. When arngladiator swings his sword at the hand ofrna man to whom he’s chained, we first seernhis weapon rise, then the hand in extremernelosc-up, followed by the sword’srndownward are, after which the camerarndarts away. Although some swear they’vernseen it, there is no shot of a severed handrntwitching bloodily in the sand. The onlyrncutting here was done in the editingrnroom.rn1 mention this because I tiiink this isrnone R-rated film that older children, sayrnI 5 and up, might view w ith profit. It’s notrnoften they get to see such a hero in filmsrntoday, a religious famih’ man who submitsrnwith enormous courage and stoicrnunderstanding to tine dufies and limitationsrnlife imposes upon us.rnThe rating this film really needs is “I”rnfor inaccruate: Parents strongly cautionedrnto provide a corrective history Ics-rnLooking for a good book?rnSupport Chronicles by purchasing books, CDs, and other itemsrnthrough the link and search engine on our website:rnwu’w.chroniclesmagazine.orgrnChronicles will receive bet^veen 5 and 15 percent on every purchase.rnAUGUST 2000/47rnrnrn