I first discovered IMDB back in 1997. At the end of the year 1998 I printed off the Top 250…
The Spanish Prisoner
It's the oldest con in the book.
An employee of a corporation with a lucrative secret process is tempted to betray it. But there's more to it than that.
A very nicely woven tapestry of storytelling intrigue and potential red herrings. It seems nothing is happening but the anticipation of something happening is palpable. Then it turns out something was actually happening all along - we just didn't see it.
Mamet giving us moments of predictability and then taking those away is exactly what makes the film unpredictable and delectable. Ricky Jay could use some more screen time as he gets all the good one-liners.
There is a couple moments of convenient plot contrivances and one instance of terrible, "hint hint" dialogue, but outside of that this is a very enjoyable thriller that will easily steal your attention away from whatever you're doing.
One of David Mamet’s most insinuating thrillers, The Spanish Prisoner is about an engineer, played by Campbell Scott, who develops a “process” that stands to make his company a great deal of money. Before he will disclose it, however, he wants to renegotiate the terms of his contract. As might be expected, his company prevaricates, and their prevarication gradually spirals out into a conspiracy designed to divest him of his rights as an employee as much as the process itself, resulting in one of those rare films in which a select group of actors feels more and more like an ensemble cast as the story progresses, as Scott comes to realise that everyone in his vicinity has been touched, in…
David Mamet creates another humdinger with "The Spanish Prisoner," a fun, twisty drama in which Campbell Scott gets screwed, royally, by a master con man. The eclectic cast, including a remarkably restrained Steve Martin, is a major highlight of the film, but it is Mamet's carefully woven script that hooks you in for the ride.
Whenever you embark on a David Mamet movie that involves the world of the con, you must remember that the real intrigue of it all is not the payoff, but the journey leading up to the payoff. I feel reluctant to even call it a "payoff", because Mamet is not worried about supplying us with a twist ending to knock our socks off. No, inside his universe it is about the trickery of the moment, and if you start thinking about that so-called "payoff", you're left in the dust and missing the point.
It's always interesting to see how actors debuting in a Mamet film handle the flow of the genius's material, and in the case of The Spanish Prisoner,…
"Beware of all enterprises requiring new clothes." - Words of Wisdom from David Mamet, or more specifically, David Henry Thoreau.
This twisty-turny triple-con starts off slow, and then slows way down. But the pleasure is in the walk down the rabbit hole with Campbell Scott, and honest working math genius who has his miracle macguffin...er...process threatened to be stolen by outside interests to his company; a company who is also, likely, trying to screw him over. It is a rude awakening for our Boyscout (literally) patsy John Ross (Scott) but a smartly written meditation on vanity and hubris, concentration-interuptus from a pretty woman and where good intentions (and too many assumptions) all too often lead.
The Ricky Jay supporting role is sublime, and he gets most of the great quotable lines (as he does in Heist and House of Games...other well oil'd David Mamet confidence-machines.
"Worry is like interest paid in advance on a debt that never comes due."
I remain a David Mamet apologist, particularly when it comes to his films about conmen, confidence games, schemes and scams; The Spanish Prisoner, like House of Games, is a fairly obvious con-film but the skill of the writing is that this never distracts from how enjoyable it is, if you happen to like Mamet's trademark flat, circuitous dialogue, and who couldn't when it is spoken by Ricky Jay, Felicity Huffman, Ben Gazzara and Campbell Scott. Campbell Scott is especially watchable, this film comfortably sits alongside his good work in Roger Dodger and The Secret Lives of Dentists. Though, I think the film is stolen by Steve…
The movie is enjoyable and the plot is pretty good. I like Mamet's dialogue, but it must be very difficult to deliver believably. I had the same problem with The Spanish Prisoner that I had with his earlier House of Games; namely that for most of the characters, and for much of the movie, the delivery of the dialogue was very distracting.
But overall the movie is good, and Steve Martin is surprisingly convincing in this completely non-comedic role.
First Mamet film I've seen other than 'Ronin' (which he supposedly wrote but has since disowned).
You can tell that Mamet is a playwright because the first act of this film feels very unnatural. People give Aaron Sorkin a hard time for his dialogue but Mamet takes the cake here for preposterous. Almost nothing in the first act seems like something a living person would say, yet alone conceive as an on the spot response to someone else. Also unlike Sorkin, it's not usually clever dialogue, it's exceptionally dry.
As the film begun to reveal its tricks and turns, I became more invested in the film but like a lot of con men/heist films, the big reveal here is ludicrously stupid. I will say I liked Steve Martin in this though.
Straightforward, quality, entertaining, well-written mystery. The less said about this film, the better, so we'll leave it at that!
It's intellectual and manupalative !! Not stylish but impressive ! Its worth trying
Surprising, serpentine story from David Mamet about an up and comer in the business world who gets wrapped up in a game of deceit without ever knowing what he's stepped into.
The con men use him as prey because of his hard work ethics and natural good manners-
the film continually defies expectations throughout its viewing-instead of three acts there are three cons played on the audience which raises their level of suspense. Steve Martin is rather effective as a bad guy, Mamet's wife Rebecca Pidgeon may be the best in the cast-though Campbell Scott is really good in the lead. Wonderfully subtle but effective score by Carter Burwell.
Flawed due to a midsection that gets painfully awkward not to mention there may one too many "twists" for the films own good-i.e. there are key moments in the film where we don't actually like the characters so our suspense dwindles.
Still highly entertaining with the mark of excellent craftmanship.
An amiable Hitchcock homage that gets a lot of stuff right, blending devices like the vaguely defined macguffin and innocent man at the centre of intrigue with Mamet's trademark dialogue, only to be let down by being poorly made. The direction is low on panache and atmosphere, the film has a cheap look and lack of style and the cast are generally very weak. No-one's outright bad, though Steve Martin seems somewhat forced and unnecessarily "look, I'm usually doing funny stuff but here I am being all serious" in such a pivotal role and Campbell Scott is just on the boring side of "everyman".
That rarest of things - a film that could do with a remake.
A typical Mamet caper film, with a fair amount of twists and turns and a mixed bag of performances. Steve Martin, in one of his rare turns as a bad guy, steals the film. Worth seeing on a night where you want something with a brain, but not a big brain.
Well I'm disappointed with this on a re-view - a film I remember so fondly seemed very flat this time around. The problem I think is that the carefully placed fragments of evidence placed throughout the first two-thirds of the film simply do not connect together until towards the very end, so the vast majority of screen-time the viewer is just bemused at what is going on, and simply has to take it on trust that all will be explained. It's simply also true that the twists and turns that Mamet so deftly specialised in are now a very common part of the cinema lexicon - the major twists in the film are just not as impressive now to the modern eye.
I'm pretty sure I forgot a dozen titles and don't ask why some films count and others don't (also the…