Gladiator: Signature Selection
Gladiator, director Ridley Scott's mammoth epic of carnage in Imperial Rome, would be just a pretender to the throne of artistic merit were it not for a commanding, brilliant, transcendent title performance by Russell Crowe. A backdrop of Machiavellian power-grappling adds some texture to this simple tale of revenge, but it would hold little interest without Crowe's sensitive, subtle portrayal of Maximus, once a general in the Roman legion, now a slave forced to fight to entertain the masses. Joaquin Phoenix provides a worthy adversary, making a powerful turn as the fey, vile Commodus. Without these two stars, all of the mildly diverting action scenes, digital effects, and leaden purple dialog would be for naught. For a great-looking film, Gladiator is well-transferred on DVD from DreamWorks, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, while audio is available in Dolby Digital 6.1, 5.1, or 2.0 Surround. Extras have been piled on this two-disc set as well, particularly with an informative commentary from Scott, editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer John Mathieson. Also on board are an "HBO First Look" behind-the-scenes featurette, The Learning Channel's The Bloodsport of a Gladiator, 25 minutes of deleted scenes with director's commentary, another seven-minute montage of additional unused footage, trailers, bios, and more. Keep case.