The Spanish Prisoner

1998, Movie, PG, 112 mins

Review

SPANISH PRISONER, THE
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Call it "Office of Games": David Mamet's new film returns to the same thematic soil he tilled in his first, the art of the con and the seductive lure of perfectly executed deception. Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) is a cog in the corporate machine, inventor of "The Process," which may make his company millions. Big boss Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara) flies Ross to the Caribbean to tantalize deep-pocket investors with the potential of The Process, but Ross quickly begins to feel as though he's being cut out of the loop where it counts: the point at which the money will start rolling in. A disgruntled dupe looking for a hook to take, Ross is just waiting for the con man who'll reel him in, flopping and gasping. Is that con man Jimmy Bell (Steve Martin), or is Bell the wealthy entrepreneur he appears to be, a man of the world who might be able to help Ross negotiate the shark-filled corporate waters in which he finds himself? And what about Susan (Rebecca Pidgeon), the bright-eyed secretary with a sticky little crush on Ross -- is she the guileless waif she appears, or is there more to her as well? It's funny how conventional Mamet's screenplay is: Cast differently and produced with the casually lavish gloss of, say, THE GAME, this intricate psychological thriller could be throwaway, adrenaline-driven Hollywood fare. But Mamet's intentions are different; he wants to make you think, but doesn't appear to care whether or not you feel. The result is rather frustrating — the story works but feels oddly hollow, almost like a con game itself. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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