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Please Review Spanish Prisoner

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Please Review Spanish Prisoner

Old 08-17-00, 05:29 PM
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I've seen some reviews of this and really want to see it, but my wife has no interest. What do you guys think of it? If you liked it, lmk if it's a buyer or a renter.
Old 08-17-00, 06:02 PM
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quote:<HR>Originally posted by 007bugs:
I've seen some reviews of this and really want to see it, but my wife has no interest. What do you guys think of it? If you liked it, lmk if it's a buyer or a renter.

I think the Spanish Prisoner is a heck of a film. However, that opinion could be informed by my love of Mamet. As with Shakespeare, one has to get used to listening to Mamet's language, or else it tends to make little sense. If one approaches the film on a realistic level, it will seem boring and uninspired.

As an example of modern film noir, I think it's a wonderful exhibition of style. I must say, though, that upon my first viewing, I was a little bored and ready to go to bed halfway through the film and finish it some other time (I'm not one to leave movies in the middle). Then something happened in the film (I won't say what it was) and I was compelled from then on to watch the rest and did so with rapt enthusiasm.

I don't know if this helps, but my opinion is, pretty much, if you're a Mamet fan, you'll love it... if you're a film noir fan, it'll be a treat... otherwise, there may be a period of adjustment, but not a painful one, and the story will pull you along with it. All in all, I know few people who haven't enjoyed the film.

- M
Old 08-17-00, 08:44 PM
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I put this in the same category as The Game, and Zero Effect. It's a great film to watch the first couple of times (the first time to see it, the second time to see what you missed the first time). After that it's not something you'll watch very frequently. I still think it's a good film The DVD could use some work though It's essentially a bare-bones job I'd rent it first and if you like it look for a deal on it

[This message has been edited by nemein (edited August 17, 2000).]
Old 08-18-00, 10:35 AM
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Without knowing exactly why your wife doesn't have any interest, let me just say that it's not a typical Mamet film profanity-wise - very little swearing, in fact. It also has basically no sex or violence. It's just a well-told film noir with some nice twists that should appeal to anyone who likes dialogue-driven films, which is why my wife was pleasantly surprised when we rented it awhile ago. I wouldn't buy it, though, since nemein's The Game reference is dead-on - not much replay value once you know the outcome.


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Old 08-18-00, 05:49 PM
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I found the movie nearly unwatchable. It did seem to be going for the film noir thing, the dialog read like the classics think his girl fridayish and there were some good plot twists, but it was a tough film to finish. Very out of character for Steve Martin a very serious role, a rather dry role. In all honesty the only thing that kept me watching at the time was the beautiful beach as I watched it after coming back from Playa Del Carmen MExico and the beach reminded me a little of it... Ahhh Mexico. Must go have a Magarita........
Old 08-18-00, 09:50 PM
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I would echo the earlier comments made that it might be enjoyable once, but probably not twice. I liked the dialogue, but Mamet certainly isn't to everyone's taste. It's a good film, but definitely a renter.

I happened to rent this the same night I rented Wild Things. I hadn't planned it this way, but I thought the two movies were two wildly different approaches to the same basic plot structure. Of the two of them, I think Wild Things is more fun, with better characters and a more devious plot. Unlike Prisoner, I could actually see myself watching Wild Things again.
Old 08-18-00, 10:52 PM
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Thanks to all... sounds like I'll rent it first. Time to click onto Netflix!
Old 08-19-00, 08:11 AM
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From www.jmreview.web.com

David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner (1997) is not a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, so don’t expect that. It doesn’t take place in Spain, and there are no prisoners (unless you count how the film holds the viewer captive). The title of the film refers to “the oldest confidence game on the books.” The Spanish Prisoner relies upon people’s assumptions, and nothing in this film is what it seems. Even the most critical and observant viewer, and with repeated viewings, might not realize everything this film contains.

The dialog and its delivery are typical Mamet, meaning it’s terse and awkward poetry with its staccato rhythms, perfect pauses, and quirky adages. Many have confused this with bad acting or a poor script. It is neither. It’s simply Mamet being Mamet, albeit Mamet in top form and without his usual profanity. But don’t form any opinions when you see the PG rating, as The Spanish Prisoner is a consummate example of how profanity, violence, nudity, and sex can be absent from a film, yet you can walk away from it feeling like you’ve had ample dosages of all these. Like any Mamet work, there are a number of memorable quotes, each perceptive and accurate.

Campbell Scott plays Joe, the trusting hero who invents “The Process” that will make his company very rich. Because of its value, “The Process” is, naturally, at risk. Ben Gazzara plays Joe’s boss Klein, and Ricky Jay, a Mamet regular and professional magician, plays Joe’s friend and an attorney for the company. These three men, along with Scott’s secretary Susan Ricci, played by Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet’s wife in real life), go down St. Estephe to discuss the benefits and potential, but not the details, of “The Process.” It is on St. Estephe that Joe meets Jimmy Dell, played by Steve Martin, a wealthy businessman. The two promise to get together in New York where Joe will be introduced to Dell’s pretty, younger sister. That is all I can say without giving anything away.

The acting is superb. Scott gives a very strong and believable performance. Steve Martin plays one of his few non-comedic roles, and gives the performance of his life (not that his others aren’t first rate). Fairly new to the screen, but not the stage or recording studio, is Rebecca Pidgeon. From the moment you see and hear her on screen as Susan Ricci you just don’t know what to think or feel. She’s so odd! She oozes wholesomely perverted sexuality, and you find her annoying, yummy, unbalanced, and totally intoxicating. She’s a complete oxymoron that you can’t help being smitten by even though you know she’s not good for you. Ed O’Neill and Felicity Huffman also appear.

To say that The Spanish Prisoner still intrigues me to this day, even with a dozen viewings under my belt, would be an understatement. The first time I saw this film I thought it was very clever, yet there were some things that bothered me. I watched the film again the next day, and I noticed several blatant plot holes and some definite prop manipulation going on. Ah ha! Perhaps Mamet isn’t quite as clever as I had originally thought. A few days later, I found myself thinking more and more about the film, so I went back and watched it for the third time. This viewing amplified my anger with Mamet. I thought that not only had he cheated his audience, but also how could he think he could get away with these obvious flaws? Also, everything, especially the ending, is just too neat and tidy. I felt a definite sense of accomplishment that I had thoroughly outsmarted David Mamet. Several weeks later I watched the film again, because, even with these apparent flaws, it’s still marvelous cinema. This time, however, I got a strange impression about the film that I hadn’t consciously felt before. This impression was a result of a combination of things. First, I realized that similar words and phrases were being used by different characters. Second, several sets didn’t seem quite right, as well as some of the actions of certain characters. Third, certain things seemed improbable, while others were completely inaccurate. Finally, there was the ending of the film. These things made me think that something was amiss with my original condemnation of Mamet, and I was now more puzzled than before, so I watched The Spanish Prisoner yet again. At the end of this fifth viewing, I said to myself, “Oh, my God!” Of course I had to see the film yet again to fully comprehend why this must be the case. My epiphany was that this film is a con within a con within a con. If you’ve seen the film and think there is one too many cons here, and that the plot holes, manipulated props, tidiness, and inaccuracies are “oversights,” think again. The environment of The Spanish Prisoner is meticulously controlled by David Mamet, and that environment includes the dialog, the sets, and the characters. Even the subtlest detail is of the utmost importance. David Mamet has since reassumed his position as a genius in my book. In fact, I now have even greater respect for Mamet than ever.

The DVD’s 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is very good, although not among the best Columbia TriStar transfers. The soundtrack is Dolby Surround. Normally this would be a disappointment, but in this case, it’s really not. Carter Burwell’s excellent score (unfortunately unreleased) sounds superb in stereo or Dolby Surround, especially in the end titles, and you can easily hear all the terse Mamet dialogue. There is, however, one quick, but hardly noticeable, audio dropout. Unfortunately, a theatrical trailer is the only extra included. A commentary by Mamet and Pidgeon would have been terrific, but that might have spoiled Mamet’s big con, and I don’t think he wanted to give it away to just anybody.

The Spanish Prisoner is perhaps the cleverest film I’ve seen, and the very good DVD presentation does this remarkable film justice. See The Spanish Prisoner with your smartest friends, discuss it, and watch it again. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Content: *****
Audio: ****
Video: ****
Extras: **

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