Written and directed by David Mamet.
If you are familiar with Mamet, you know that he is known for his incredible smart and intricate plots, as well as his colourful dialogue, and in HOUSE OF GAMES, his debut feature film, he shines. I just watched this and it was brilliant! I'm trying to remember where I heard about it, but I'm glad I put it on my "to-watch" list when I did because this is truly a hidden gem of a film. It is a sharp and witty neo-noir, steeped in expressive lighting, paranoia, twists and turns, and dynamic characters. It is a world where it is impossible to know who to trust, and even the protagonist's motives are dubious.
|Straight-edged Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse)|
|A younger Joe Montegna is a smooth-as-ice cardsharp.|
What follows is a twisty and turny mystery story, where it is impossible to say where reality ends and a con begins. Margaret becomes involved in a confidence scheme, but who is really being fleeced? Characters come and go, but who knows whether they truly are strangers, or just accomplices in on the take? It is also a intriguing look into the world of the confidence man. This is not a new or original topic to be explored in film, but under Mamet's expert scripting, it becomes a fascinating film to watch. Mamet is primarily known for his theater, but his is an art that translates effectively to film. At times it feels like it is theater, but it doesn't matter, his dialogue is immersing. His actors deliver the lines theatrically, and I mean this not as a criticism, but rather an observation. Like many great films, where the actors speak in ways that people likely wouldn't normally -- for example old film noirs like THE BIG SLEEP or THE MALTESE FALCON -- the dialogue is so liquid and rich, it doesn't matter.
For anyone interested in Mamet, film noir, mysteries, stories about confidence men, or poker, take a look at this film. Criterion recently put out an excellent DVD of it. It is a fascinating film, and one that will leave you questioning things up to -- and beyond -- the last frame.