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Worth A Look: 28.81%
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5 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Spanish Prisoner, The
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by Filmink Magazine (owes us money)

"Mamet has learnt his Hitchcock well."
5 stars

The Spanish prisoner is an old con game, Mamet tells us. But then, so is the movie thriller: a genre about sucking us into an exotic world full of promise only to spite us with sadistic fantasies. A genre that sets out to torture the dark neurotic corners of the things we Hate About Ourselves. Mamet knows nothing lies better than a convincing picture. But, as Hitchcock knew, to get the trick to work you've got to know how far you can push the con.

A poker player knows a few tricks about what to hold on to and what to throw away and Mamet plays them here, in this tricky, amusing flick, very like his 1987 debut House of Games. Except The Spanish Prisoner is better: it's smarter, faster and it offers, in amongst the tortuous aphorisms of Mametspeak, and the intricate plotting that is a pure joy to watch unfold, a severe critique of how people "do business" these days.

For instance, his hero Joe (Scott), a coolly brilliant man with a transparent yearning for recognition. He's developed the Process: a multi million dollar earner for Gazzara's obscure little company and yet, he still complains about money/status. If that weren't enough to mark him out, one look at his fey, wire rim spectacles and you know, this guy is a sap.

Then there's Pidgeon's secretary Susan. She thinks Joe's cute and she thinks his new pal, the mysterious Manhattan millionaire Jimmy (Martin, excellent) isn't who he says he is. Maybe she's right, but who's Susie?

Mamet has learnt his Hitchcock well. The Spanish Prisoner takes Joe's vulnerability, and turns it into a cruel joke; just when things get bad for him, Mamet makes it worse. But better than the droll-thrills-errant-form of an expertly calibrated thriller mechanism is Mamet's obsessions and his painful insights about power and behaviour.

That is, people aren't conditioned to seek the truth of what they see - they'd rather believe what they already know. And that's dangerous. --- Peter Galvin

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1262&reviewer=14
originally posted: 11/04/98 18:45:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/25/10 the dork knight Dreadful community player actors, reading lines like they're on Ambien.. 2 stars
6/12/09 Mary Predictable, boring, with lame "twists" 2 stars
2/10/09 Banana Phone good thriller with insane twists, drags a bit in some parts but overall very good 4 stars
12/11/08 djorian 3 un fracaso total! bad dialogue, bad casting, a lame plot, boring, a complete waste of time 1 stars
7/29/08 the dork knight why are these actors so bland? Is it on purpose? 3 stars
4/24/07 Will If you don't know the mom-kid scene was a parody you shouldn't review movies this smart. 5 stars
8/19/05 ES Dull, be prepared to sit and stare for a while, not worth the watch 2 stars
7/24/05 Jake A smart, complex, and ingaging thriller 5 stars
10/05/03 Jack Sommersby Smoothly done, but dramatically sparse and easily figured out. 2 stars
7/16/03 Mr. Hat Very very engrossing & enjoyable. Steve Martin is an excellent villain. Thumbs up 4 Mamet. 5 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Good, but The Water Engine was much better (TSP's predecessor, also by Mamet). 4 stars
6/02/02 R.W. Welch Twisty and involving plot line pretty well carried out though the ending is a bit too pat. 4 stars
4/01/02 lauren mccreight trys a little too hard.....Glengarry Glen Ross it ain't. 3 stars
12/23/00 joh wow-holy fuck was this good 5 stars
9/03/00 DarcyElaine I nearly spent the 2nd half of TSP peeking out from under my desk -- INCREDIBLY suspenseful 5 stars
5/25/00 Add Great stuff, totally involving with great performances from all concerned. See it now! 5 stars
5/14/00 seldom scene easy to follow and easy to guess wrong 5 stars
12/18/99 Matthew Smith a thriller that will suck you in from start to finish. 5 stars
9/24/99 KK 5 Stars all the way!!! Never got the recognition it deserved when it was released. 5 stars
4/14/99 Jon Jackson Really really good for 3/4 then it drops off a little yet noticeably 4 stars
1/26/99 donkey_dew I can't get enough of this. Mamet is king! 100% enjoyable stuff. 5 stars
1/13/99 Steve Kelley Fantastic film, all around. 5 stars
12/26/98 demon_shredder This movie rocked. David Mamet rules. 5 stars
12/20/98 Binky Wow! Where was this hiding when it was released!?! 5 stars
11/18/98 Doobie Boy This was an unexpectedly great film. I loved it. 5 stars
11/07/98 Christ Monkey Like THE GAME done better. 5 stars
11/07/98 {{{OZ}}} This is a good fucking film. 5 stars
11/03/98 Johny First half depends on your liking of deadpan dialouge. Second is loads of fun. 4 stars
11/03/98 Bluntman Loads of fun. Blows away THE USUAL SUSPECTS with its mind game plot 5 stars
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  03-Apr-1998 (PG)


  15-Oct-1998 (M)

Directed by
  David Mamet

Written by
  David Mamet

  Campbell Scott
  Rebecca Pidgeon
  Steve Martin
  Ben Gazzara
  Ricky Jay
  Felicity Huffman

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