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  • `The United States of Kiss My Ass'

    House of Games is the directional debut from playwright David Mamet and it is an effective and at times surprising psychological thriller. It stars Lindsay Crouse as best-selling psychiatrist, Margaret Ford, who decides to confront the gambler who has driven one of her patients to contemplate suicide. In doing so she leaves the safety and comfort of her somewhat ordinary life behind and travels `downtown' to visit the lowlife place, House of Games.

    The gambler Mike (played excellently by Joe Mantegna) turns out to be somewhat sharp and shifty. He offers Crouse's character a deal, if she is willing to sit with him at a game, a big money game in the backroom, he'll cancel the patients debts. The card game ensues and soon the psychiatrist and the gambler are seen to be in a familiar line of work (gaining the trust of others) and a fascinating relationship begins. What makes House of Games interesting and an essential view for any film fan is the constant guessing of who is in control, is it the psychiatrist or the con-man or is it the well-known man of great bluffs David Mamet.

    In House of Games the direction is dull and most of the times flat and uninspiring, however in every David Mamet film it is the story which is central to the whole proceedings, not the direction. In House of Games this shines through in part thanks to the superb performances from the two leads (showy and distracting) but mainly as is the case with much of Mamet's work, it is the dialogue, which grips you and slowly draws you into the film. No one in the House of Games says what they mean and conversations become battlegrounds and war of words. Everyone bluffs and double bluffs, which is reminiscent of a poker games natural order. This is a running theme throughout the film and is used to great effect at the right moments to create vast amounts of tension. House of Games can also be viewed as a `class-war' division movie. With Lindsay Crouse we have the middle-class, well-to-do educated psychiatrist and Joe Mantegna is the complete opposite, the working class of America earning a living by `honest' crime.

    The film seduces the viewer much like Crouse is seduced by Mantegna and the end result is ultimately a very satisfying piece of American cinema. And the final of the film is definitely something for all to see and watch out for, it's stunning.

    An extremely enjoyable film experience that is worth repeated viewings. 9/10
  • If your idea of a thriller is car chases, explosions, and dozens of people being mowed down by gunfire, then "House of Games" is definitely not the movie for you. If you like and appreciate psychological drama and suspense, then, by all means, see it.

    "House of Games" tells the story of an esteemed psychologist and writer, Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse), who tries to help a patient and gets involved in the shadowy world of con men led by the charismatic Mike (Joe Mantegna). To say anything more about the plot would ruin the suspense. Frankly, I find it hard to believe anyone who says they saw the twists coming. Just like a clever con artist, this movie draws you into its web and lulls your vigilance.

    The story is taut and well-crafted, the dialogue smart and laconic, the acting uniformly good (Mantegna is superbly charismatic). Some have complained that Dr. Ford is not a very sympathetic character, and wondered why Mamet would make Lindsay Crouse look so physically unattractive. But Dr. Ford is supposed to be cold and aloof; moreover, her homeliness is in a way essential to the plot (at one point, I believe that an injury to her sexual self-esteem is a key part of her motivation ... I'll say no more).

    "House of Games" is a dark look at the underside of human nature that concludes on a note of discomforting ambiguity. It will hold your attention every second while you are watching, and stay with you for a long time afterwards.
  • David Mamet wrote the screenplay and made his directorial debut with `House of Games,' a character study fraught with psychological overtones, in which a psychiatrist is lured into the dark world of the confidence game. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) has a successful practice and has written a best-selling novel, 'Driven.' Still, she is somewhat discontented with her own personal life; there's an emptiness she can neither define nor resolve, and it primes her vulnerability. When a patient, Billy Hahn (Steven Goldstein), confides to her during a session that he owes big money to some gamblers, and that they're going to kill him if he doesn't pay, she decides to intervene on his behalf. This takes her to the `House of Games,' a seedy little dive where she meets Mike (Joe Mantegna), a charismatic con-man who wastes no time before enticing her into his world. Instead of the `twenty-five large' that Billy claimed he owed, Mike shows her his book, and it turns out to be eight hundred dollars. And Mike agrees to wipe the slate clean, if she'll agree to do him one simple favor, which involves a card game he has going on in the back room. In the middle of a big hand, Mike is going to leave the room for a few minutes; while he is gone, her job is to watch for the `tell' of one of the other players. By this time, not only Margaret, but the audience, as well, is hooked. The dialogue, and Mamet's unique style and the precise cadence with which his actors deliver their lines, is mesmerizing. As Mike leads Margaret through his compelling, surreal realm of existence, and introduces her to the intricacies of the con game, we are swept right along with her. From that first memorable encounter, when he demonstrates what a `tell' is and how it works, to the lessons of the `short con,' to the stunning climax of this film, Mamet keeps the con going with an urgency that is relentless. And nothing is what it seems. In the end, Margaret learns some hard lessons about life and human nature, and about herself. She changes; and whether or not it's for the better is open to speculation. Mantegna is absolutely riveting in this film; he lends every nuance possible to a complex character who must be able to lead you willingly into the shadows, and does. Crouse also turns in an outstanding performance here; you feel the rigid, up-tight turmoil roiling beneath that calm, self-assured exterior, and when her experiences with Mike induce the change in her, she makes you feel how deeply it has penetrated. She makes you believe that she is capable of what she does, and makes you understand it, as well. The dynamic supporting cast includes Mike Nussbaum (Joey), Lilia Skala (Dr. Littauer), J.T. Walsh (The Businessman), Ricky Jay (George) and William H. Macy (Sergeant Moran). `House of Games' is the quintessential Mamet; he's written and directed a number of high-caliber plays and films since, and will no doubt grace us with more in the future. But this film will be the one that defines him; and you can go to the dictionary and look it up. You'll find it under `Perfection.' This is one great movie you do not want to miss. I rate this one 10/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The plot of 'House of Games' is the strongest thing about it: a successful author and psychologist is conned by a gang of grifters, but in discovering the wicked part of herself that enjoys the thrill of what they do, she finally gets her revenge. That's about the pitch: but someone has to take responsibility for it coming across as being acted by puppets. It has to be the director Mamet: Lindsay Crouse has had a varied and pretty steady TV and film career, so she can't perform this badly all the time. She's supposed to go from uptight, cool, controlled professional to calculating, wicked fast lady having fun, as shown by the change from beige trouser suit (which she seems to wear for three days straight, including underwear) to floppy floral sundress. But everyone seems to be speaking their lines the same clipped, precise way; I imagine Mamet wanting to make sure not a syllable of his scintillating script got missed. The effect is unsettling and spoils the atmosphere of mystery and suspense he is presumably trying to create. At times 'House of Games' loses any connection to how human beings actually behave or talk, and becomes just a mechanism to spin out the plot. The clunky vibes'n'oboe faux-jazz soundtrack doesn't help either. The ultimate result is that the only entertainment to be had is in guessing the outcome, and the sooner you do that the sooner you will get bored with the robotic, two-dimensional performances. And they smoke too much!!!
  • I've viewed this film four times and at each viewing my interest was piqued a little more and I appreciated the film a little more. Granted the stylized approach is a little off-putting at first, but on repeated viewings, it becomes appropriate in the context of the film. Lindsay Crouse,(Mamet's wife at the time), plays a psychiatrist who methodically approaches her treatment of her patients, is a very closed person, and seemingly unfulfilled; hence, her interest and eventual immersion into the activities happening in the House of Games. Her almost robotic reading of the lines seems to fit her screen personality. She is at first curious and then becomes obsessed with Joe Mantegna and his way of life. As we will see, she plays right into his hands, and so do we. I won't go into detail about the story and it's strengths since it has been said better in previous reviews on this board. But the big con is on us, the viewers......we think we know what is happening...in fact we think we know several times. WRONG!! The ending will blow you away and if you figured it out, you need to be working the con game. This is a strange, almost erotic movie that will fascinate you, even though it might take a couple a viewings to fully appreciate it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILERS As another poster here has written , maybe I too have seen too many "con" movies and wasn't one bit surprised by the "big con" in this movie. I was however completely bowled over by the writers insistence that the viewer must be incredibly dim to believe that the psychiatrist was so utterly naive and easily manipulated.

    A lot of things in this movie didn't make sense to me. For instance , we are supposed to believe that these con men are on the top of their game , true professionals , she should also have to believe this. I would expect this to be intrinsic to the plot , she must be completely taken in by them. However she "believes" , that the guy used a loaded water pistol , she "believes" that the guy they try to sting is an undercover cop but also was stupid enough to talk loudly on his walkie talkie , one door away from the bad guys .... AND leave the door open while doing so , finally she "believes" that they just left 80,000 dollars in cash behind (at a murder scene)!

    Having said all that maybe they are THAT stupid , I mean the day after conning her , they decide to meet up and split the money between them ..... what venue do they choose? a secluded motel? a hotel room ? someones house/apartment? Nope , why not split the cash in a bar , one which she has visited before. She manages to (surprisingly easily) sneak in a back door and back out again , without being seen , but in between this overhear a load of criminals talking loudly about their latest scam.

    Believable?

    There are just too many holes in this movie , the big con was so obvious it was embarrassing.... from little questions like " would a guy at a poker game really be expected to take a check off of someone only ONE other person knew" to the eternal "why do people in movies always leave their car keys in their car " (for their get-away from the murder scene).

    Am I missing something here , for people to say this was an intriguing plot makes me feel slightly uneasy!
  • In Seattle, Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) is a successful psychiatrist and writer of a best-seller. When her client Billy Hahn (Steven Goldstein) tells that he owes US$ 25,000 to the gambler Mike (Joe Mantegna), he threatens to commit suicide with a gun. Billy also tells that Mike will kill him anyway and she is not helping him. Margaret feels powerless but she promises to help him if he delivers his pistol to her. Margaret goes to the House of the Games, a place where gamblers play pool in the saloon and poker in the rear, and she meets the cynical con man Mike. He tells that Billy owes him only US$ 800 and he would forget the debt if she helps him in a poker game. Margaret observes a player but she finds in the end that it was a scheme of Mike and his friends to take money from her. On the next morning, Margaret visits a patient and she feels that she cannot help her. Her friend and adviser Dr. Maria Littauer (Lilia Skala) suggests that she should give a break in her career and write another book. Margaret seeks out Mike and asks to see how he operates since she wants to study the confidence games to write a book. He agrees and Margaret begins her journey to her dark side.

    "House of the Games" is the directorial debut of the writer David Mamet with an intelligent thriller. The story of a psychiatrist that feels powerless to help her patients and befriends the con man Mike and his friends to write a new book is a powerful characters study. Mike' scheme is predictable but the plot keeps the attention of the viewer until the last scene. In addition, the cinematography is top-notch. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "O Jogo de Emoções" ("The Game of Emotions")
  • House of Games is a wonderful movie at multiple levels. It is a fine mystery and a shocking thriller. It is blessed with marvelous performances by Lindsay Crouse and Joe Montegna, and a strong, strong cast of supporting players, and it introduces Ricky Jay, card sharp extraordinaire, prestidigitator and historian of magic. Its dialogue, written by David Mamet, is spoken as if in a play of manners and gives the movie (in which reality is often in question) an extra dimension of unrealness.

    On the face of it, House of Games is a convincing glimpse into the unknown world of cheats and con men, diametrically different from The Sting, which was played merely for glamour and yuks. At this level it does succeed admirably.

    However, you cannot escape the examination at a deeper level of the odyssey of a woman from complacent professional competence to incredible strength and self realization. The only movie I know of which treats the theme of emergence of personal strength in a woman in as worthy a way is the underrated Private Benjamin. That thoroughly enjoyable movie unfortunately diffuses its focus, hopping among several themes and exploiting the fine performance of Goldie Hawn to chase after some easy laughs. House of Games sticks to its business. As Poe once said of a good short story, it drives relentlessly to its conclusion.

    There is another strain of movies-about-women, epitomized by Thelma and Louise, a big budget commercial money maker with the despicable theme that women are doomed, whether or not they realize their inner strengths. What tripe.

    As usual you really ought to see this film in a movie theater. It should be a natural for film festivals. Nominate it for one near you if you get the chance.

    I bought the original version of House of Games and gave it to my 23 year old daughter. Better she should see it on a TV than not at all.
  • rmax30482329 October 2002
    Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers. In his essay on "compensation," which we would nowadays call "immanent justice," (or maybe "karma") Emerson wrote: "Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass." After participating in a theft and murder, Lindsay Crouse returns to her office and the first thing she does is close all the blinds, as if her conscience, indeed the conscience of the whole world, is outside, staring in at her.

    This is a fairly intelligent movie, especially considering that it's the first outing as director for David Mamet. He handles the camera quite well. Nothing looks stagy. And he knows when to let the shot linger on the door to "The House of Games" as it swings very slowly closed after Crouse enters for the first time, and we get to hear the latch click shut behind her. The screen is filled with a huge sturdy doorknob and lock, and a somewhat ragged sign reading simply "Games."

    It's a story of the long con, meaning a thoroughly planned and time-consuming scenario played for big stakes, like "The Sting". The whole plot, involving a dozen people, is orchestrated down to the smallest move and the placement of props by Joe Montegna and the mark is Crouse, although she doesn't discover this until the end, and then only by accident. Yes, some of the dialog sounds as if it's being read from cue cards, but I take this to be deliberate stylization. Crouse and Montegna have shown in other works that they can be as naturalistic as the next performer.

    Here, with Mamet's odd script, they take chances. There is a lot of repetition. Character A says, "I'm going to take you somewhere." B says: "You're going to take me somewhere." This goes on mostly between the two leads. There are many instances, still sounding stylized, of speakers interrupting themselves and beginning a new utterance: "I can't believe that -- How did all this get started?" I think rhetoricians call this "anacoluthia" but I wouldn't bet on it. When the narrative requires it, the dialog moves along with considerable verve. The script is to movies what Hemingway's prose was to literature as far as stylization goes, and it works here. (It doesn't always work: vide "Barfly.")

    The film gives us a picture of human nature that isn't very pretty. We are all con men, it says. And we are, in a way, although not always illegally. The sociologist Erving Goffman called our everyday con jobs "impression management." Goffman also wrote a fascinating article called "Cooling Out the Mark," a study of how con men quiet the mark down in order to leave him sufficiently satisfied with himself that he doesn't go to the cops or otherwise seek revenge. Montegna does a splendid job of cooling out Crouse: "You're going to feel a strong need to confess. Don't do it. You had nothing to do with it. It was all an accident. You're completely innocent." (This just after he's relieved her of "eighty large" and is about to beat it to the airport to skip town.)

    Lindsay Crouse, as I say, is the mark, but she's hardly an innocent bystander. She has written a best seller, "Driven", about compulsive behavior, but she smokes a lot and steals things and is drawn to the world the con people inhabit. As a psychiatrist, however, she has learned to "forgive herself" (how do you do that?) and after shooting her exploiter full of numerous holes, she takes a vacation, comes back, and with tan and a big smile boosts a gold lighter out of the purse of a woman sitting next to her in a restaurant.

    There is so much unwatchable garbage on the screen these days that when something comes along that doesn't insult your intelligence, like this movie, I feel myself heaving a sigh of relief. Definitely worth watching.
  • I knew nothing about this movie when I saw it on tv many years ago and had never seen 'The Sting' before seeing this. It's best to enjoy these type of movies without any prior knowledge, because if you knew anything about it before hand, you could work out the plot after 10 minutes. A movie that seems a straight forward thriller, but actually deals more with the desire to explore one's darker side. Mamet maybe made some of the plot twists seem a tad to obvious and doesn't quite manage to shake of a 'tv' approach, but that doesn't matter because Joe Mantegna gives a superb performance that lifts the other cast members above tv standard.

    One of David Mamet's better movie efforts (like Untouchables, Spanish Prisoner and Glengarry Glen Ross), it's best knowing nothing about this movie before seeing it.

    8/10.
  • Oliver-5010 January 2005
    Wealthy psychiatrist Lindsay Crouse has just published her first novel and is feeling down about her profession feeling that it's hopeless to help her patients. A young gambling junkie client asks her to help him pay off his debts if he truly wants to help him get better. Here she gets involved with Joe Mantegna. To reveal any more of the plot would spoil one hell of a fun movie and 'House of Games' may very well be the best con movie I've seen. David Mamet wrote and directed this gem that's full of snappy dialogue, great one-liners, and enough twists to keep you guessing til the end. Crouse is perfect as the uptight psychiatrist needing a change and Mantegna tops her as the devilishly sly con-man. And with the exception of a coincidence in the last quarter of the movie, the film is in utter control of it's audience; and we are loving the con.

    *** out of ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    House of Games is spell binding. It's so nice to occasionally see films that are perfect tens. There are few movies I've seen that can grip you so quickly. From the opening scene this movie just gets you.

    I'm trying really hard not to give to much away to those who may not yet have seen this but there will be a FEW SPOILERS SO DON'T READ ANYMORE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

    I would say House of Games is not just a superb film but is the best movie about con artists I have ever seen-bar none. From the moment the movie is over it begs to be replayed.

    Lindsay Crouse as Margaret Ford is simply perfection, from her mannerisms to the inflection of her voice she gets into the role immediately. Joe Mantegna was also wonderful. The dialogue in this movie has an unforced almost unscripted quality and these two people communicate as much in a look as they do with their voices. I also loved the way the movie was filmed, in that grainy, surreal type of way, it fit perfectly and helped make the film what it was.

    There were a few movies I've seen and loved that this reminded me of including The Grifters and The usual Suspects but really, House of games is completely different in it's way. Margaret and Mike are two of the most absorbing characters I've seen on the big screen and not only do they have screen chemistry that is strong and palpable from the moment they meet, but the buildup that starts from the moment they set eyes on each other is electrifying. You know something's going to happen but you have no idea what. And just when you think you've guessed what the "something" is, you realize you haven't even scratched the surface....

    House of Games is one of those movies that may be lumped in to a certain genre of movie type but is essentially a movie about human nature. The character study is not just about the mind of the con artist but the victim as well. As the movie moves along and we get to know more and more about the main characters, we learn about them not just through what they say but how they say it. It is a great character study and is flawless in the way it speeds to it's conclusion.

    In closing, I'd rank this 10 of 10, call it (although not my absolute favorite film, pretty high on the list), most definitely outstanding and would go so far as to say it does rank as one of the best character studies and contains some of the best "twists" I've ever seen as well. Although I love all types and genres of movies, when it comes to movies of the human psyche, it really doesn't get much better then this. See this movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The first 2/3 of "House of Games" is really enjoyable, as Lindsay Crouse's psychiatrist character is engulfed into the world of professional con artists. Dr. Ford's insights into human behaviour and motivations give her a giddy thrill in watching a "mark" succumb, and by giving us a peek behind the scenes, writer/director David Mamet allows us to get drawn in right along with her. In fact, our knowledge soon overtakes Dr. Ford's, when it becomes apparent that she herself has unknowingly become the patsy in a much bigger con-within-a-con. Nothing wrong with that, except that Mamet clearly expects us to be "surprised" by this revelation, long after it's blatantly obvious to everyone except the doc. At this point, she suddenly looks extremely gullible and slow-witted, our empathy with her is lost, and no amount of enjoyably hard-boiled Mamet dialogue can redeem the rest of the movie. (Incidentally, the strangely robotic performance from the usually compelling Lindsay Crouse, the former Mrs. Mamet, should be compared to the even-stiffer Rebecca Pigeon, the PRESENT Mrs. Mamet, in 1997's not-dissimilar "Spanish Prisoner". Maybe Mamet just can't direct women who are his wives?)
  • I had generally heard positive remarks about House of Cards by David Mamet. So i decided to watch with relatively high expectations. But not only did the film not meet my expectations, I ended up completely loathing it. I still can't begin to understand how this film can have so much critical acclaim. Except the cinematography, not a single thing works.

    It is clear that Mamet is a playwright as the dialogues sound completely lifted from his plays. The lines are so unrealistic and so not engaging, that I found myself laughing at them. The plot is extremely weak. The first con may fool you, but everything that follows is predictable with a capital P. A con movie's strength lies in its ability to keep the viewer guessing and then fooling the viewer. Not only did I not get fooled, but even someone who is not paying attention will be able to predict the "big" con that takes place at the end. The storyline is essential in a con-movie,and this film showed me why due its weakness.

    Let's now come to the acting which I believe is the weakest thing in the film. Joe Mantegna is the only one in the whole film who is believable and whose charisma works to some extent. Lindsay Crouse as Margaret Ford delivers one of the most atrocious, mechanical, lifeless performances I have ever seen. You don't have to like or dislike the protagonist, but you have to connect with him/her. To say that I didn't connect with her character will be an enormous understatement. In this film her line delivery actually makes Kristen Stewart's performances in the Twilight films look Oscar- worthy. I have seen some comments on this site defending Crouse's performance by saying that her wall- like performance is justified because she is playing the role of a person who is reserved, introverted and has always lived within restrictions. I completely disagree with that argument. Just because you are reserved, doesn't mean you have to be completely lifeless and be a human wall. The prime example to defend my case will be the character of Gerd Wiesler played by Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others. Wiesler was also a serious, reserved character who had been made so by incidents in his past. But I loved Ulrich Mühe's performance as he still remained believable and intense. He spoke and behaved like a normal shy,introverted person. You don't have to speak like a robot with no expressions and have the acting range of a wall to convey the fact that the character is uptight. Even William H Macy's guest appearance disappointed me and I like Macy's acting in everything else. Mind you, the silly nature of the lines that the actors have to say don't make their jobs any easier to conjure even the slightest bit of realism. This over the top dialogues and wooden acting might be Mamet's style and it might work in his plays, but for me it doesn't work at all in a film.

    The cinematography works to some extent. I liked the use of the light and the shadows which created a noir-like effect.

    So apart from the cinematography and Mantegna's performance, nothing in this film works. I will never be able to comprehend how Roger Ebert thought this film was good enough to find a place in his list of Great Movies.
  • Here's a review for people like me. This movie sucks from beginning to end. I threw popcorn at the screen and resorted to entertaining myself a la MSF2000. The plot hinges on chance happenings and relies on stupidity from people who are supposed to be smart. The lead falls for a con man and it doesn't occur to her that she might get conned????? And she's rich???? And she's a famous psychologist????? COME ON, people. She enters the bar at just the most convenient moment when everyone is assembled to talk about conning her??? That was so staged that it felt like slap in the face to even half-witted movie viewers. Rain man would have been insulted. I also admit that I despise Mamet dialogue with the kind of passion that some people have for meat-eaters, war-starters, and fur-wearers. My hatred is so complete that it defies logic. But I'll give it a shot. That it's not supposed to sound real is fine. I don't care. It's that everyone talks the SAME. Mamet can't create characters; all he can do is foist his voice on us relentlessly through different actors. No wonder his actors are so wooden. They're confused about everyone being the same character. (However, his later films do improve.)
  • bandw17 January 2009
    The effect achieved in this story about a psychiatrist who becomes involved with con artists is so mannered that I have to assume that that was the desired intent. The sets are artificial and at no time did I not feel that I was watching a movie. It seemed like the actors were just reading their lines, rather than responding to one another. While the film has elements of early film noir (except that it is in color) the approach is so exaggerated that I almost have to conclude that it is a parody of the genre.

    Given that the presentation had no appeal to me, I was at least expecting an engaging story. Usually I am pretty slow on the uptake when it comes to stories with plot twists, but you could see what was coming here within the first fifteen minutes. By the time of the, "Gee, I forgot the $80,000," moment, I thought to myself that this thing is truly ridiculous. For a psychiatrist with stated experience in gambling addictions to behave so stupidly is beyond belief. If at any stage she had behaved like a normal intelligent person, the whole story would have fallen apart.

    This wooden production left me cold.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    *spoilers within*

    Well. So many here seem to think this is the ultimate masterpiece con movie. I just am not so sure. Several here have written that the movie's ending was completely unexpected. But I just felt let down. I would love someone to explain just why this movie's plot (particularly the ending) is so enthralling to them. After reading some of the reviews, I feel like I'm missing some big reveal.

    I enjoyed the long con and I get the fact that she's was being conned right from the start (her gambling patient). I enjoyed the dissection of all the con games. I get that they were going after her for her wealth and that she fell for the guy. Once she figures out that they conned her, she tries to get revenge on Mike (as if the mark is going to con the con, but it never goes there). Instead, we have a "slo-mo" showdown at the sea-tac airport baggage terminal and she gets her revenge. It just doesn't seem like such a devastating ending to me. She steals a lighter??? What's the big deal? I certainly wasn't blown away, at least not on the level of other such films like The Score, or even Mamet's other similar films Heist, and the Spanish Prisoner, both of which I enjoyed very much and have seen several times.

    Maybe it's just that we've been treated to so many great con films (even going back to The Sting) that we expect one final turn that isn't there. But several reviewers have mentioned that it keeps you guessing till the end. I guess I just wish I knew why I should be blown away.
  • mjneu5928 November 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Celebrated playwright David Mamet's debut as a film director may be, with all its stark formality and icy pessimism, too cool and detached for its own good. There's no disputing his talent as a writer, but he does little to adapt the rhythm of his stage dialogue to the screen, and his story of confidence tricksters is a con in itself, leading viewers to expect perhaps more than they'll get. Once the plot begins to take shape it reveals some fascinating details about the ways in which professional swindlers take advantage of human nature, as a noted psychiatrist (Lindsay Crouse) learns after being seduced by the games people play (on themselves and each other). The script sets up a clever dilemma without ever providing a clear solution but this isn't, after all, meant to be a caper. The film is more a character study, but with a hole in the middle: the characters all seem to exist in an isolated vacuum, almost as if, despite the natural settings, they were (surprise) performing on stage.
  • This movie had potential, but what makes it really bad is Lindsay Crouse's acting. I've never seen her before in anything else and maybe there are some Crouse fans out there that like her in something else, but her performance in this movie is bad.

    Her delivery is robotic. When she delivered her lines it appeared that she was trying to make sure she had the lines right and was simply reading off the list in her head. So, her voice has very little inflection. I can't believe someone that bad at acting was given a lead role in a movie. She has to know somebody in the biz.

    Now I hate to be this mean about her, but the comment has to be "this" long and her performance is what sticks out more than anything else.

    However, I liked where the story was going so I continued to watch it. The first part of the script has the makings of a good movie. But the end was disappointing as well. Maybe if her acting had been better, I would have liked it.
  • I give this a 4/10, based on a very simple formula: sophomoric plot + horrible acting = bad movie. First, the plot. Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that a distracted young chimp could anticipate each of the so-called twists. Now, the acting. With the exception of Montegna, who is the only remotely believable character, the performances wouldn't pass muster at a community theater in the outskirts of Boise, Idaho. Several lines/scenes are downright comical.

    My only defense of the movie is that it may have been adapted from a play, because that's what it felt like - a group of mediocre stage actors, directed by a 20-year old drama major, collectively trying to muddle their way through their first film. The bottom line is that this flick certainly doesn't warrant the relatively high rating that the IMDb audience gives it. It misses the mark so badly, in fact, that it makes me question the credibility of the rating system itself.

    I want my 2 hours back, and if your I.Q. is over 100, chances are that you will too.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Man! I thought that this movie might be interesting. Instead it was predictable from start to finish. Not only that, it was implausible as well. It already started with the gold ring tell. Mike explains to the lead actress that the Las Vegas poker player plays with his gold ring when bluffing. He also says that the guy is conscious about his own tell. So how can you even rely on that kind of tell? It's not believable but the psychiatrist doesn't have a clue. She's not even sceptical about Mike going to the bathroom on his turn during the big hand. She ends up calling the bet with her own money and then refuses to pay the man. Up to this point she didn't know that she was tricked. So why wouldn't you pay? You called the bet and you lost. It doesn't matter what kind of pistol was involved at that point. I could have already guessed that the movie wasn't going to get any better. But I guess I was tricked as well being as gullible as the psychiatrist. I awarded the movie with 3 stars just because it could have been interesting. The plot and acting were just too weak. Can't recommend.
  • Seriously, I thought that it was a play within a play at first - like in that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen has the two actors on a stage playing Alfie and Annie. The acting was about that quality - the dialog was what you'd expect from a college playwright. Even if Mamet did mean to have stylized dialog and acting - it doesn't work at all - at best coming off as pretentious - at worst just plain silly. As for the plot - well, Paper Moon, and the Film-flam man covered the con-man angle far better and the psychology was very 80's, and not very convincing.

    Very disappointing - I had expected much better from a man of Mamet's stature. Maybe that's what happens when you put your friends and lovers in your work. However, there is a nice cameo from a young William Macy...
  • Here's my first David Mamet directed film. Fitting, since it was his first, as well.

    The story here is uneven and it moves along like any con movie, from the little cons to the big cons to the all-encompassing con. It's like "The Grifters," but without that film's level of acting. (In that film, John Cusack was sort of bland but that was the nature of his character.) The acting here is very flat (I sometimes wondered if the bland acting by Crouse was supposed to be some sort of attack on psychoanalysis). At least in the beginning. It never gets really good, but it evolves beyond painfully stiff line reading after about ten minutes. Early in the film, some of Lindsay Crouse's lines -- the way she reads them -- sound as if they're inner monologue or narration, which they aren't. With the arrival of Mantegna things pick up.

    The dialogue here isn't as fun as it should be. I was expecting crackerjack ring-a-ding-ding lines that roll off the tongue, but these ones don't. It all sounds very read, rather than spoken. Maybe Mamet evolved after this film and loosened up, but if not, then maybe he should let others direct his words. He's far too precious with them here and as a result, they lose their rhythmic, jazzy quality. What's more strange is that other than this, the film doesn't look or feel like a play. The camera is very cinematic. My only problem with "Glengarry Glen Ross" was that it looked too much like filmed theatre, but in that film the actors were not only accomplished, but relaxed and free. Everything flowed.

    I wouldn't mind so much if it sounded like movie characters speaking movie lines -- or even play characters speaking play lines -- but here it sounds like movie (or even book) characters speaking play lines. It's a weird jumble of theatre and film that just doesn't work. That doesn't mean the movie is bad -- it isn't, it's often extremely entertaining. The best chunk is in the middle.

    It's standard con movie stuff: the new guy (in this case, girl) Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) gets involved in the seedy con underworld. How she gets involved is: she's a psychiatrist and one of her patients, Billy is a compulsive gambler. She wants to help him out with his gambling debt, so she walks into The House of Games, a dingy game room where con men work in a back room. I'll admit the setup is pretty improbable. (Were they just expecting Crouse to come in? Were they expecting she'd write a cheque? Was Billy in on it? One of these questions is definitely answered by the end, however.)

    And from here the cons are start to roll out. I found the beginning ones -- the little learner ones -- to be the most fun. We're getting a lesson in the art of the con as much as Crouse is.

    We see the ending coming, and then we didn't see the second ending coming, and then the real ending I didn't see coming but maybe you did. The ball just keeps bouncing back and forth and by the last scene in the movie we realize that the second Crouse walked into The House of Games she found her true calling.

    I'm going to forgive the annoying opening, the improbable bits and the strange line-reading because there are many good things here. If the first part of the movie seems stagy, stick with it. After the half-hour mark it does really get a momentum going. If you want a fun con movie, then here she is. If you want Mamet, go watch "Glengarry Glen Ross" again -- James Foley did him better.

    ***
  • Perhaps my wife and I are dullards, but this movie was an absolute stinker. I am new to the site, and I wanted to find out how a "bad" movie was ranked, so that the rankings would be useful.

    When I saw that this movie was rated pretty high, I was surprised to say the least.

    Re: David Mamet -- the Emperor has no clothes.

    We wish we could get the 90 minutes back that this movie robbed from our lives (actually, it was about 60 minutes. We turned it off when we discovered it wasn't going to get any better).

    Stay away!
  • By far the most important requirement for any film following confidence tricksters is that they must, at least occasionally, be able to pull one over on us, as well as their dumb-witted marks, the cops, the mob and (ideally) each other. But this film NEVER pulls this off. Every scam can be seen coming a mile off (especially the biggen!) Neither are they very interesting, intricate or sophisticated. Perhaps Mammet hoped to compensate for this with snappy dialogue and complex psychological relationships. If so, he failed. The lines are alright, but they're delivered in such a stilted, unnatural, stylised way that I thought perhaps some clever point was being made about us all acting all the time... but it wasn't. As for the psychological complexity, the main character's a bit repressed and makes some ridiculously forced freudian slips about her father thinking she's a whore, but she gets over it. I really liked the street scenes though. Looked just like an Edward Hopper painting.
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