House of Games

House of Games ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'm not sure whether as a society we've all become more aware of how confidence games work, but for most of this movie the protagonist, a helplessly wooden Lindsay Crouse, is frustratingly slow to catch on to what's happening. Anyone with a passing knowledge of cons big and small will find themselves at least two or three steps ahead of Crouse. That makes it exceedingly difficult to root for her, and indeed, the real hero here, the one the audience is really rooting for, is the unmitigated bad guy played by Joe Mantegna. Even if his shenanigans seem fairly obvious in a 2021 viewing, Mantegna's rendering of "Mike" is of a consummate craftsman, both delighted by his own powers and contemptuous of those who are oblivious to them. That's ultimately what rescues this movie from mediocrity, and from Mamet’s unremarkable direction.