Butler's slice of the action

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: March 23, 2007 | Publication: Living.scotsman.com | Author: Ben Falk, Damon Smith
Publication/Article Link:http://living.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=453712007

GERARD BUTLER likes to be called Gerry. It's what his friends call him and since moving to America, he isn't fond of the way the Yanks pronounce his full name.

Gerry suits the tall, handsome Scottish actor, who is renowned for being laid back and gregarious - that rare Hollywood breed who actually appears to revel in his work and fame.

Of course, Butler isn't A-list famous yet. Despite leading roles in films like Phantom Of The Opera and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life, he is still that guy who you kind of recognise but can't quite place.

But that's all likely to change with his new movie 300, particularly since it has just garnered a staggering $70 million in its first weekend at the US box office, making it the biggest March opening in history.

Butler plays King Leonidas, the ruler of the Spartans who with 300 of his men fought to the death against the invading Persian army, despite, the myth says, being outnumbered by more than 1000 to one.

Anyone who has studied Greek history knows the story, but 300 gives it a spin, adapted as it is from the graphic novel by Frank Miller, the man behind Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns. In his version of the tale, Leonidas and his boys are rippling hunks who fight the mutated enemy in codpieces while making sure their women get good loving.

The movie also marks something of a progression in film making, recreating the lush landscapes and blood-soaked battlefields on a sound stage in Canada via the miracle of CGI.

"Every day somebody else would be carted off to the hospital," Butler remembers with a wry laugh, referring to the epic training that prepared the cast for the highly choreographed yet ultra-violent fight scenes.

"I pulled my groin at one point and damaged my shoulder from overdoing it." He may have overdone it, but the results of his graft have led some critics to carp that his physique must also be thanks to computer graphics.

"I was training in LA and then in Montreal on the set," he explains. "It was intense and I loved it, especially the bonding and the camaraderie. But at the same time, I haven't been to the gym once since we stopped and I have no wish to do so either for quite a while. The Scot was born in Glasgow but spent the majority of his upbringing in Paisley.

As a baby, he also lived in the Montreal for two years. "We had a lot of fun there," he remembers.

The box office figures mean 300 may prove the movie that finally pushes Butler into the next level of his acting career.

300 opens in cinemas across the Capital today

GAME ON: Gerard Butler prepares to go out in a blaze of glory as Spartan King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae

Ben Falk

300 (15) ***
"Freedom isn't free at all. It comes at the highest of costs - the cost of blood."

Based on Frank Miller's celebrated graphic novel, 300 recounts the epic Battle of Thermopylae, at which the 300-strong Spartan army fought to the bloody death against the might of the vastly superior Persians.

Writer-director Zack Snyder adapts the story for the big screen as a bruising war epic awash with muscular men, whose rippling torsos and impressive six packs are enough to make even the most body-conscious man feel inadequate.

Snyder remains faithful to Miller's striking vision, shooting almost the entire film on specially created sets augmented with computer special effects. It's a breathtaking, ravishing feast for the senses in the same way that Sin City, also based on a Miller graphic novel, was a tour-de-force of production design.

Colours are saturated and the contrast between light and dark intensified to bring an almost photographic quality to the bloodshed - and there is carnage aplenty as the Spartans and Persians clash in a series of increasingly brutal skirmishes. In some of the film's most arresting sequences, the Spartans face battle-clad elephants and rhinos, and sword-wielding fiends on horseback.

The hero of the story is King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), who defies the advice of the Oracle and the Spartan Council to leads his 300 men against the might of the Persians, led by the despotic Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).

As hordes of heavily armed soldiers attempt to break the Spartan might, Leonidas and his brothers - including his loyal Captain (Vincent Regan), Dilios (David Wenham) and the youthful Astinos (Tom Wisdom) and Stelios (Michael Fassbender) - hold firm

Meanwhile, back in Sparta, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) tries to thwart the political scheming of Theron (Dominic West) and the Council.

300 clearly has ambitions to be this year's Gladiator, with romantic scenes between Leonidas and Gorgo that could have been borrowed in their entirety from Ridley Scott's Oscar-winning epic.

The body count is high; in stark contrast, characterisation is perfunctory.

Butler looks the part, barking every word, like his warning to Xerxes: "The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, the few stood against many, and even a god can bleed!"

Damon Smith