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  Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix  
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Let's get a few things straight here. I'm not the kind of guy who goes to movies based on their poignant unblinking assesment of the misery of the human condition. I'm not interested in films that increase my brooding quotient (BQ). I like movies when they're pretty, or action-filled, or funny. I'm a sucker for cheap sentimentality. It is, frankly, embarassing for me to admit that there are a half-dozen commercials running on television right now that make me weep like a baby. But, there it is.

So, given that, you know where I'm coming from for how I feel about this movie. I really liked it. Lots of costumes that are historically accurate enough for my tastes, lots of fighting, and lots of blood. And the movie is pretty. There are lots of scenes where the vistas are grand, where the music swells into stratospheric realms, and the sentiment of the speeches wanders into noble realms. I like that kind of stuff. But, then again, I'm the kind of guy who'd rather visit Notre Dame than Jim Morrison's grave.

So, down to the movie itself. Russel Crowe is actually convincing as a general who has risen to the top through a military meritocracy. Noble, but clearly a character who doesn't have any illusions about his place in the world or whatever destiny the gods might have for him. It's this self-effacing nature and his clear-eyed assesment of his place in the world that gets him into trouble, without which of course there would be no movie. This is, fundamentally, a guy. Not an everyday Joe, because he's really, really good at leading armies into battle. But he doesn't try to make himself into a "great tragic figure", and that for me is the movie's primary saving grace.

Nobody in this movie overacts, really. Even Joaquin Phoenix (he's Causey, you know) doesn't play the emporer as a comic villan. He's just able to portray someone you really, really hate.

One other nice thing about this is that the violence is no-punches-pulled. It's not like TV, where if this cat's got a trident and this bad guy is coming at him, then he'll whack him upside the head with the but of the trident. No, bad guy's gonna get disemboweled, because that's the best solution to the problem.

Okay, there are plot holes big enough to drive the entire Ben Hur chariot race through. And the cinematography and score sometimes take themselves too seriously. But dammit, I liked this movie. Go see it.

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