When Emperor Marcus Aurelius' son Commodus murders his father, he must also do away with Maximus Decimus Meridius, the finest general. Maximus escapes his execution, but finds his wife and child murdered. Wandering and wounded near death, he is picked up and put into slavery, and selected to fight for sport as a gladiator. From there, he seeks revenge.
While it's all grand opera, and driven by sweeping gestures and pompous, overwritten dialogue, it is prone to plain silliness - especially in granting us the big showdown at the close. But the sheer dynamism of the action, coupled with Hans Zimmer's lavish score and the forcefield of Crowe, still makes this a fiercesome competitor in the summer movie stakes.
Reviewed by Ian Nathan
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