The movie "300" is rated R for "RAAAAAR!" and is about as inspirational as "Field of Dreams" multiplied by "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," plus infinity.
High school football coaches who show this to their players before games are guaranteed to win 55-0. Should opposing coaches show the DVD to each of their teams before the matchup, a rupture in the space-time continuum will occur and the game will be declared a tie.
In "300," set in 480 B.C., the marauding Persian empire — led by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) — attempts to romp over the Greeks.
The only thing between Western society and oblivion is a group of 300 brave Spartans who defy timid politicians and make a stand, fully aware that they'll be giving up their lives.
Their doomed, idealistic quest is reminiscent of "Letters From Iwo Jima," only without the self-pity. The heroes fight for pride, honor, democracy and the right to leave the toilet seat up.
Forget the hype over supposed parallels with the war in Iraq. Depending on your purview, you could read the Americans as either the evil empire or the dogged defenders of democracy.
Loosely based on the Battle of Thermopylae, much of the film was shot digitally in a studio, with the backgrounds and special effects rendered in "Star Wars" fashion. The film has a stylized look that matches what would happen if "The Matrix" had hot, dirty sex with "Clash of the Titans."
"300" is a moving, shouting, blood-spurting comic book in the same way as "Sin City," which, like this one, is based on a Frank Miller graphic novel.
Director Zack Snyder alternates between sepia-toned slo-mo and kaleidoscopic blasts of fever-dream adrenaline with scenes that look like they were cut with Ginsu knifes by teppanyaki chefs hopped up on Red Bull.
The Spartans are a super-human elite squad of lumberjack pirates who were trained by the the great-great-grandpa of Chuck Norris' paternal ancestor. A prologue explains that from the age of 7, Spartans are forged into die-hard dynamos of fury who can kill with their bare hands. It was either their forced sojourn into wilderness that makes them that way or that they played violent video games.
They battle the millions-strong army of the Persians, which includes wave after wave of easily disposed screaming maniacs, followed by black-hooded elite Delta Force Persians who are like zombies — gotta take their heads off or impale their hearts if you want 'em dead.
The Persians also trot out gimongous armored rhinos and war elephants that got kicked out of the zoo for being too big and angry.
Sparta is led by warrior King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), whose idea of a strategic troop surge is to round up a few of his buddies and stomp out on the battlefield for an eight-hour slaughterfest, with a snack break to munch an apple while watching his lackeys rake up the corpses.
While Leonidas and his boys are doing their thing, funneling the Persians into a narrow mountain passage that lets the troops slaughter the enemy at will, the king's wife, Gorgo (Lena Headey), takes on a crucial quest to persuade the rulers to send out reinforcements to back up her husband's cause.
The flick would be mesmerizing enough if it were all cheap thrills, but there's also a depth that makes you hurl your allegiance to the Spartans. This is the sort of film that comes along about once every few years. You cherish the experience so much that the only disappointment comes in knowing it will be a long time until you see another new movie this good.
It's called "300" because that's how many stars it deserves. I'm sad I only have four to give.
Rated: R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.
Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Dominic West.
Director: Zack Snyder.
Family call: Extremely violent and contains nudity.
Running time: 117 minutes.