A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Maximus: I'm required to kill--so I kill. That's enough.
Proximo: That's enough for the provinces, but not for Rome.
A foolish choice in art direction casts a pall over Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" that no swordplay can cut through. The film looks muddy, fuzzy and indistinct. Its colors are mud tones at the drab end of the palette, and it seems to have been filmed on grim and overcast days. This darkness and a lack of detail in the long shots helps obscure shabby special effects (the Colosseum in Rome looks like a model from a computer game), and the characters bring no cheer: They're bitter, vengeful, depressed. By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies. (There are blue skies in the hero's dreams of long-ago happiness, but that proves the point.) The story line is "Rocky" on downers. The hero, a general from Spain named Maximus (Russell Crowe), is a favorite of the dying emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). After Maximus defeats the barbarians, Marcus names him protector of Rome. But he is left for dead by Marcus' son, a bitter rival named Commodus (the name comes from the Latin for "convenient" and not what you're thinking).
After escaping and finding that his wife and son have been murdered, Maximus finds his way to the deserts of North Africa, where he is sold as a slave to Proximo (the late Oliver Reed), a manager of gladiators. When Commodus lifts his late father's ban on gladiators in Rome, in an attempt to distract the people from hunger and plagues, Maximus slashes his way to the top, and the movie ends, of course, with the Big Fight.