The Spanish Prisoner Reviews
Beside that, as a neo-noir: better than many, worse than some. As a crime-heist: better than many, worse then some. My mistake was to expect more, and I should stop to do so.
Then there's the structure of this entire con game. It is executed very well, and has a lot of interesting moving parts that you never expect. The problem is, unlike a really well-constructed con film, the entire plot starts to fall apart when you look at it in any detail. So many little coincidences had to go a certain way in order to get everything to line up just right, no one could have planned this entire thing. Not to mention how the ending doesn't really make any sense, I'm still not sure who's behind the whole thing and why they did it. Also when they setup things in this film they really hit you over the head to expect something is coming. Through repetition we are constantly bombarded that a certain thing is important, and therefore you naturally assume it's probably not what it seems. It's the strangest combination of over-writing (because details are over-explained and dialogue is way too wordy) and under-writing (because the plot makes no sense, and the conclusion is just glossed over in about 2 lines.) I did get some enjoyment out of the story in The Spanish Prisoner, but the writing is just so bad that I can't possibly watch it again.
[color=lemonchiffon]Saw dese late April on DVD ...[/color]
[color=orange][b]The Spanish Prisoner, 1997, Writer/Director David Mamet[/b][/color]
[color=orange][b](with Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon, Campbell Scott)[/b][/color]
Wasn't sure that I had seen any of David Mamet's films previously so did some IMDB research and found that he also did [color=magenta]State and Main (2000)[/color] and [color=magenta]The Winslow Boy (1999[/color]). He's also done [color=magenta]Glengarry Glen Ross, Ronin and Wag the Dog[/color] (haven't seen these and don't think I wanna) plus many other widely seen films. I've tried watching State and Main and Glengarry Glen Ross and I know at their release there was much ado and ra ra about them but for some reason I can't engage myself enough to watch em right through. Now this for me is most odd - I can honestly say that I have never ever walked out of a film at the theatre and usually if I sit down to watch a film 9of my choosing) I'm completely absorbed from start to finish. Can't quite put my finger on what it is about these two films ... However, I did quite like The Winslow Boy & Nigel Hawthorne is quite watchable to me, maybe that's why I liked it? I can't really recall - it must have been a good nuff film.
I quite liked the pace of The Spanish Prisoner and the mind games / whodunnit quality, good finale too. I wanted to wack Campbell Scott upside the head a couple of times cos of his gullibility - no you dumbass don't take the red book with you! Prime target! The Winslow Boy featured the intriguing Rebecca Pidgeon who is also in The Spanish Prisoner - not the typical female character at all ... she'd make a good poker player methinks! There's also a minor part in the film played by Felicity Huffman. Steve Martin was suitably menacing in a subtle way.
The con game that is being played here is between Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) and Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin). Ross is an inventor that has just created an enigmatic "process" (the "process" itself is never truly revealed) that will make his company millions of dollars; Dell is a charming millionaire that strikes up a friendship with Ross - he warns Ross that his company is untruthful and they will reap the benefits of his invention.
Ross gets to the point in which he becomes deeply worried that Dell is right, confronts his company, and turns to Dell in hopes to protect his profit. But as it turns out, Jimmy Dell isn't Jimmy Dell, and he, in fact, is a con man and Ross is the victim. At every turn, there seems to be no one not in on the con, and seemingly nowhere he can go. Ross is forced to take matters into his own hands before the situation grows out of control.
Once the mind games start in "The Spanish Prisoner", there is no turning back. Mamet sets up the situation perfectly - at first glance, there isn't much at stake, and in the next moment, everything is. Ross, towards the beginning of the film, isn't too sympathetic: he is clearly well-educated, and there's a feeling of pretentiousness that fills the air. However, when he is conned, his fear bleeds through like an everyday guy, and suddenly, a man who, every second of his life fancies himself to be successful and intelligent, loses what he has worked for, for so long.
This element is one of the reasons the film as such a great feeling of Hitchcock tendencies. Not only does it have a successful man put in the center of the situation, but there is a key "wronged man" essential toward the middle of the film. Scenes play out not often with suspense, but tight tension, simply waiting to be snapped in half. There is a point in the film where Ross finds that he cannot trust anyone -- the audience feels the exact same way.
Mamet constantly hits us in the gut with complete wrongness, and while it feels terrible that we aren't able to outsmart the long con in the first place, it also builds upon the entertainment presented. The twists and turns are satisfying, never predictable. Scott, an actor not often used in leading roles like this one, is fit for the role, as he seems as completely aghast as we do.
In the end, "The Spanish Prisoner" feels like a reward. In this day in age, it simply is wonderful to get a film so bent on classic thriller values without having to resort to cliches. It comes to show that we can have fun without groaning first.