If Gladiator and Sin City had a baby, it'd look a whole lot like Zack Snyder's 300. And that baby would be a 22-pound boy who shot out of the birth canal bearing several tattoos, snarling like a jackal and wielding a spiked club. Almost completely mindless but admirably stone-faced (with only an infrequent wink at the audience to remind us how crazy it all is), this is probably the closest thing we'll ever get to a feature-length action sequence -- and I for one think it's a big ball of testosterone-soaked entertainment. Based on the (very cool) graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 offers a pretty simple story: Ancient Sparta is about to be invaded by a massive horde of bloodthirsty Persians. Typically muddled politics prevent Sparta's powerhouse army from getting involved, so it's up to King Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartans to keep the armies at bay while his queen does all she can to sway the politicians to her way of thinking. Period. That's all there is to 300, story-wise. It's not startlingly unique or anything, but it's enough of a story frame on which to hang two solid hours of high-end mayhem.
Visually arresting and wildly cut together, 300 is (despite its well-earned R-rating) precisely the kind of movie that turns 14-year-old boys into ravenous movie geeks. It's got more battles, brawls, monsters and maniacs than the entire Mad Max series and it approaches each new gimmick like it's the world's coolest new action figure. (Some of the most memorable characters in 300 don't utter a single word.) The action sequences are numerous, frequent, cleverly mounted and pretty damn creative. And since 47% of the movie is basically swords, shields, spears and skin-slices, it helps that Mr. Snyder has lots of nifty ideas on how to shoot his carnage. Truth be told, two hours of non-stop insanity would start to grow a little tiresome, and since much of 300's plot is linear at best (and entirely predictable at worst), it helps that we have a few strong actors in the mix. As Leonidas, Gerard Butler is a wild-eyed force of nature.