Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kickass Movie Scene List #81: Gladiator

Today's scene comes to us from the epic gladiator movie... Gladiator.

I actually just saw the movie again recently, and I think it holds up just fine. I've heard plenty of talk over the past few years that it hasn't, and I'm not entirely certain why. Russell Crowe's performance is good, Joaquin Phoenix's performance is good, the sets looks wonderful, the script is quite good, the cinematography is great - so why the hate?

Anyway, there's lots of great scenes in Gladiator, but only one so quotable as to attain a certain pop culture ubiquitocity...

Are You Not Entertained?

Maximus is put in the ring against six other gladiators. The primary rule is to put on a good show. Instead, he simply mows through all six obviously inferior fighters in under a minute.

Then the film gets meta for a minute. Disgustedly flinging his sword at the resident VIP, he addresses the crowd (and, by extension, the viewer) and asks the million dollar question "are you not entertained?". The crowd prefers their violence to have a certain drama and pageantry attached to it. For a brief moment, the movie strips the bloodsport down to its pure basics and throws it in everyone's faces. The result is both sobering and excellent, quotable moviemaking.

(on a less meta note, the rest of the movie wholeheartedly seems to wholeheartedly ignore whatever aesop this scene might provide in favor of dramatic, glamorized and, yes, exciting violence, so... uh... take it how you will).


  1. Well, in fairness, most of us who might argue that it doesn't "hold up" had issues with it in the first place. Phoenix's performance is not well-liked among actors, nor is Richard Harris's. Maybe I'd have to see it again (I might own it, but I really don't know), but my instinct is to say I'd still find the script totally lacking in nuance.