Gladiator

Gladiator ★★★½

From a historical accuracy standpoint, this makes Mel Gibson's anti-Brit diatribes look good; it is unbelievably funny that this film ends with the Roman Empire being formally dissolved to return to its republican roots, complete with emancipation. You might as well end with a leprechaun showing up and giving gold to all the assembled plebeians in the stands. But from a "dudes rock" perspective this is still the tits. Scott manages to thread the needle of assembling music-video style action that is nonetheless sufficiently coherent and logically mapped to make good use of the boundaries of gladiator arenas. Crowe is at his no-fucks-given best while Harris and Reed are both in Compelling Whisper mode. But it's Phoenix who steals this, playing an entitled little Veruca Salt whose fey, singsong delivery and mocking little gestures should undermine his moments of threatening intensity but instead infuse him with even more deranged child energy. His endless bitching about how much more popular Maximus is than him feels like the only insightful bit of political commentary in a movie ostensibly wrapped up in senatorial intrigue.