The Spanish Prisoner
David Mamet, director/writer, 1997
John: This is the second or third time I’ve seen this movie. About three-quarters of the way through it, I think this is one that will out-Hitchcock Hitchcock. Then it goes wrong and I remember why I was disappointed before. Mamet is a great writer and the cast is good, but…
Spanky: I know what you mean, and I think the problem has to do with our expectations which extend beyond the movie. Steve Marin plays it straight, and we expect him to betray us (hasn’t he already done that “playing it straight.”) But its Mamet’s wife, Rebecca Pidgeon―cast as a naïve, but trusting female confident―who we can’t accept as evil.
John: All of a sudden this is another twist and turn in a movie of twists and turns, but this is one too many. She has been the central character’s, and our, one fixed point in an ever-changing perspective.
Spanky: Part of the problem is I’m sure Mamet didn’t want Pidgeon to be the heroine and Martin and Ben Gazzara, the losers. And he knew he could write clever dialogue to cover the sleight of hand. He does. But emotionally, cleverness is not enough.
John: I love the way he plays off of Chinese tourist stereotypes, but you’re right. The Campbell Scott character (he is the son of George C. Scott, by the way) is our stand-in, not knowing what to believe or who to trust, but Pedgeon seems all that is right in a confusing, greedy world. To throw her out, with the bath, is to throw the movie away too.
GO (1 GO out of 4)
Spanky: If wishing could make something better, I would have been satisfied. John you may not be Mamet, and are certainly not Steve Martin, but for once I agree.
BARK (1 BARK out of 4)