Well it’s another week and time for another crap movie. Now while at first glance you might think a crap movie has to be a bad movie, this just really isn’t the case. Crap movies, at least in my book, aren’t crap movies because they are bad. They’re crap movies because through some wonderful magic, their inherent dumbness suddenly becomes comedy of the highest order (oh and there are explosions, beheadings, and the occasional gratuitous boob shot, those help too). So even though you might think you need bad acting, shitty directing, and a shooting script written in crayon to make a crap movie, think again. Take today’s movie, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2000, Gladiator.
Now Gladiator is a very good movie. It’s well cast, has a good story and everyone including me felt pretty good when it won a whole bunch of Academy Awards. Granted, if it had been up to me, Traffic would have won for best picture that year, but the Academy and I aren’t completely on the same page about a lot of things.
This explains why I’ve never heard back from the Academy on my plan to speed up the ceremony by having hot chicks shoot the Oscars nobody really cares about (cinematography, best costumes, The Irving G. Thalberg Award) into the audience with those tee-shirt guns they use at monster truck rallies. We could wrap the whole thing up in under an hour and all go to Applebee’s for riblets. Mmmmm, riblets. Doesn’t food just taste better when you only have a vague idea what it is and where it comes from? Wait, what the hell was I talking about? Oh right, Gladiator is a good movie.
Right, Gladiator is a good movie, but if you look at it just the right way, then its crap goodness comes shining through. Don’t believe me? Well let’s take a look at the plot.
When our movie starts, everything is great, fantastic, bordering on Jim Freaking Dandy. The Romans are just about to kill the last bunch of Germans in Germany. Ok, if your name happens to be Otto these maybe aren’t the best of times, but for everyone in our movie this is as good as it gets.
The Roman army wins a big victory thanks to the cunning plan of their general, Maximus (Russell Crowe). This plan involved Russell Crowe screaming incoherently while ridding on a horse and then rolling around in the mud. Play to your strengths Rusty, play to your strengths.
The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Peter O’Toole), is so happy he tells Russell Crowe, that Rusty is the son he never had. This is right when the Emperor’s actual son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) shows up. It’s really awkward, like that second Austin Powers movie when Seth Green meets Mini Me.
Russell Crowe and the Emperor have a little powwow, where the Marky Mark lets Rusty in on his plans to drop dead and then have Russell Crowe turn the empire back into a republic. Rusty is all thanks but no thanks, because all he wants to do is hang out with his wife and kid, and maybe run his hands through fields of wheat. By the way, if you just thought, “man if Rusty’s wife and kid weren’t in the movie anymore I bet we could have a pretty kickass action movie,” then all I have to say is, hold that thought.
The Emperor then calls Joaquin Phoenix in and tells him he’s not going to get to be Emperor, because the Emperor thinks JP is a douchebagus maximus, but they can still be a loving family, right? Joaquin Phoenix takes this news pretty well and gives dear old dad a big hug. Awwwwww.
Oh crap, Joaquin Phoenix just smothered his dad. Ok, maybe he didn’t take the news as well as we thought.
They wake up Russell Crowe in the middle of the night and when he gets to the emperor’s tent Joaquin Phoenix tells him his dad just dropped dead. Yes siree bob, it was totally natural causes and he definitely wasn’t the recipient of a Joaquin Phoenix hug o’ death. JP also mentions his daddy’s last words were that he wanted Joaquin to be the next emperor.
Russell Crowe knows this is a crock of rich creamery butter, and immediate puts into action a clever plan to overthrow Joaquin Phoenix and save Rome. Sadly there is no incoherent screaming or rolling around in the mud in his plan, so Joaquin Phoenix figures it out in about 10 seconds and takes Rusty prisoner. See what happens when you don’t play to your strengths?
Taking a page out of the Snow White play book, Joaquin Phoenix sends some goons out to the woods to take care of Russell Crowe. Rusty gets loose and kills all the goons, and hotfoots it back to Spain to save his wife, son, and beloved fields of wheat.
Because it’s a movie it only takes Rusty about a minute to ride a horse from Germany to Spain, so he is able to arrive just after the bad guys have killed his wife and kid. Russell Crowe then makes the sad panda face, buries his wife and kid, and passes out.
When Rusty wakes up he’s a slave and he’s being taken to Africa. It could have been worse, if he’d fallen asleep in Cancun during Spring Break he would have woken up in a bathtub full of ice missing a kidney. See, you can always put a happy face on any situation.
He also meets his bestest buddy in the movie, a big black guy who is always there for him, and showing Russell Crowe how good life can be, he’s sort of like a big mannish version of Oprah.
When they get to Africa it turns out they’ve been bought by Oliver Reed to be gladiators. Only Russell Crowe isn’t going to fight. Well that is until he finds out people applaud gladiators, then he’s totally on board with the program. Hmmm, it sounds like Rusty is lacking in a positive self image; I think he needs a hug, just not from Joaquin Phoenix.
Anyway Rusty gets teamed up with Moprah for his first gig and it turns out he has a real future as a human pit bull,
“… There’s no business like show business…”
Meanwhile back in Rome, Joaquin Phoenix is now the emperor and decides he needs to throw a bunch of gladiator games so he can put his master plan into action. I’m not really sure what JP’s master plan is, but I know a key element of it appears to be boning his sister. Oh, and getting rid of the senate, that too, but mainly it involves boning his sister.
Back in Africa Oliver Reed hears that they need gladiators in Rome, and hey he just happens to have gladiators. So he bundles up Rusty, Moprah and a bunch of body builders and they head for the big time.
Rusty’s first big fight in Rome is a pretty kickass scene. Russell and the guys have to fight a bunch of guys in chariots with those whirly things on the wheels that chop people up. Lucky for the gladiators Rusty has a plan. It involves a lot of screaming and yelling and Rusty killing people on horseback. It works like a charm. If you’re noticing a pattern here, well let’s just say you’re smarter then Rusty, lots.
Oh strategery, thy name is Rusty
Russell Crowe is wearing a helmet so when Joaquin Phoenix comes down to congratulate him after the fight it gets really awkward when he takes off his helmet and tells JP he knows he hugged his dad to death. JP would really like to kill Rusty right about know, but it would be in front of everyone, which would make JP look like a douche, which would interfere with his cunning master plan to get into his sister’s toga, so he has to let Rusty live.
Next we see a secret meeting between Joaquin Phoenix’s sister and Russell Crowe. She wants Rusty to take care of JP and save Rome. Rusty isn’t interested in getting with the program, mainly because these two were an item back in the day and it sounds like Russell Crowe was the dumpee when things went sour.
Rusty tells her, sure he’s planning on killing Joaquin Phoenix, but not because Joaquin Phoenix’s sister wants him to. Oh, and he makes sure to let her know that even though he’s chained up in a cage most of the time, he’s still joined a gym and is dating a lot, so he can’t possibly be the guy who calls her up at 2:30 in the morning and hangs up 42 times whenever Rusty gets drunk on a Saturday night.
Then there is another great fight scene. Rusty fights this big German dude that Joaquin Phoenix brought in as a sort of ringer. Oh and there are tigers and pits, and the whole thing is only slightly less fixed then your average wrestling match. It’s freaking awesome.
Dude, tigers, pits and big honking Germans, do you really need anything else in a movie?
Naturally Rusty wins. The big German ringer is laying at Russell Crowe’s feet and when JP gives a big thumbs down to Fritzy, Rusty tells him to cram it where the sun don’t shine. This leads to another big face to face meeting in the middle of the Coliseum where JP tries to egg Rusty into trying to kill him, so Joaquin Phoenix’s guards can kill Rusty. Only Russell Crowe isn’t biting and he leaves the arena and makes JP look like an even bigger douche then he was before.
JP: I’m thinking of becoming a rapper
RC: Really? My band just put out a new CD
Both thinking to themselves: Jesus, what a loser.
Rusty has another meeting with JP’s sister and tells her he’s now on board with her “get rid of Joaquin Phoenix for the good of Rome” conspiracy. Then Rusty puts into action a plan that calls for the split second timing of the coordination of the Roman senate, his new gladiator buddies and his old legion that is like 200 miles away.
Unfortunately this plan involves neither screaming, yelling, cutting people’s head’s off while riding on a horse, or even rolling around in the mud. Joaquin Phoenix figures out in less time then it would take to solve this puzzle on Wheel of Fortune:
RUSSELL CROWE _S A N_TW_T.
Joaquin Phoenix kills a bunch of senators, Russell Crowe’s old war buddy who was going to bring Rusty’s old legion to Rome, Oliver Reed, pretty much all of Russell Crowe’s gladiator buddies except for Moprah, and takes Rusty prisoner to boot. Not only that, but JP tells his sister if she doesn’t start making with the hillbilly love he’s going to kill her son.
Cue the banjos!
So is that the end of the movie? Does Joaquin Phoenix win? Of course not, don’t be silly. Why? Well for starters the movie is called Gladiator and not Batshit Crazy Incestuous Roman Emperor.
No, Joaquin Phoenix decides he needs to fight Rusty in the Coliseum in front of everybody in Rome. Now JP isn’t a total idiot so he stabs Russell Crowe right before the fight, because how hard could it be to kill a guy who is bleeding to death?
Apparently it’s harder then one would think, because even though Russell Crowe is on death’s doorstep and we have to watch about 74 black and white scenes literally showing a door to the afterlife, Rusty is still able to shove a knife through Joaquin Phoenix’s throat. (By the way this is an awesome ending for a movie and I wish more best picture winners would end this way. Oh and yes I am looking right at you Driving Miss Daisy. )
This is for Inventing the Abbots!
Rusty then drops dead and JP’s sister comes down to the arena and tells everyone what a great guy Russell Crowe was and they carry his body off, and then Moprah goes home. The End
Here you have it, a movie with a lot of important lessons. Like playing to your strengths, especially if you just happen to be a gladiator and your strengths include screaming, yelling and stabbing. Also this is a movie that shows even with a great cast, a good story, and rich production values, it is still possible to tap into that crap goodness.