Well this is one of those pictures you would call a hitchcockian type thriller, and yes that is named after Alfred Hitchcock. But one difference is that this is NOT directed by Hitchcock, it is the director debut of Mr. David Mamet.
In the opening scenes the acting is kind of stiff and everything is kind of dull and I was thinking of watching something else. But as soon as the story kicks in you see that that is to illustrate that this lady psychologist who is the main character, her life has grown banal and she is in need of adventure. Her everyday job scenes are almost draining they are so dull while the rest of the movie is full of suspense. One of her patients tells her what does she know, she hasn’t experienced anything. And through his gambling problem she goes and decides to thrust herself into some real experiences. She goes to a small bar called “house of games” (get it, that is also the title of the movie, house of games) where she meets a gambler named Joe Montegna. I mean that is the actor’s name anyway.
Well hell I’m not gonna tell you what the picture is about because it would ruin it. But it’s about con men and how this lady goes along and watches different cons in action. But they call it “confidence games” instead of cons because that is how con men are, number one they are liars and number two they are show offs. And just because they make a living outsmarting everybody they are convinced that they are smarter than everyone else. But despite my personal disdain for some of these pricks I gotta say that it is a pleasure and an honor to watch them at work. It is always fun to watch the tricks as they unfold and try to piece them together and watch some dumb motherfucker besides you get taken. And you gotta question what you are seeing and are you really in on it or are they fooling you too? So a good con man movie is always a good movie to watch, and this is a good one.
Ricky Jay, the narrator of Magnolia has a small role in this one and was also a consultant. I guess he is real into con men and is also a magician. But the real star of this picture who steals the show, is the lead. Her name is Lindsay Crouse and she is older and more serious than you expect to star in a movie, she is not a typical hollywood beauty. She is kind of cold and intense, and knows how to be a real ballbuster when she needs to, but also through the course of the story shows her vulnerability. And I’m not saying I want the gal but it is also refreshing to see a sexual aspect to this story even though hollywood is usually so youth oriented and would be afraid of scaring off their audience by showing a slightly more mature gal prancing around in a nighty.
I would never dream of giving away any of the surprises particularly in the end where it turns out that Lindsay is actually a con woman herself, and has been putting on the psychiatrist persona as part of an elaborate game against the con men. The audience only finds out her secret in the scene where joe montegna finds a videotaped confession she was planning to broadcast through her pirate satellite. there is a north by northwest type action setpiece set inside and on the roof of a chuck e. cheese restaraunt that has to be seen to be believed. So even if I tried to give it away I wouldn’t be able to because you wouldn’t believe me, because it has to be seen to be believed.
You see that is what a con is about, you try to make someone believe something that isn’t true, like that last paragraph which was a huge load of horse shit. So anyway this david mamet would be a hot young talent except for one thing, he made this movie a long time ago. but it’s a good one though. If you like a good suspenseful thriller with lots of little tricks and twists, and with lindsay crouse and joe montegna as the stars, well this is the one to turn to in my opinion thanks.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.