The Spanish Prisoner

David Mamet Profile, by Thom Bennett

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Reviews by: Jason Gorber | Karen Jaehne | Richard Schwartz | Robin J. Schwartz

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Mixing greed with paranoia can be a lethal combination, but it makes for exhilarating filmmaking. Joe is an eager young man on the edge of making his mark in the business world. He has developed a revolutionary strategy called The Process. He is invited to the Caribbean by his boss, where he will make his presentation to the board and in return reap his reward. But when his bonus fails to materialize and even an amount is never discussed, Joe is left to fret on his own. When an enigmatic rich stranger, Jimmy Dell, literally lands on the scene, Joe is hurled headlong into a labyrinth of deception, illusion, and intrigue.

When in any given week, casting calls seek "actors who can deliver Mametlike dialogue" and plays are described as Mametesque, a writer has officially entered the public consciousness. In The Spanish Prisoner, the original outshines any pale imitations. Mamet's signature staccato dialogue punctuates the intricate plot as it twists and turns with startling results. The strengths at its core are the performances and characterizations, and the cast is simply remarkable. Campbell Scott is flawless as Joe, systematically worn to his last nerve; Steve Martin taps into the powerful Jimmy with a performance that is elegant but subdued; and Rebecca Pidgeon's sassy secretary is complex and alluring. All together this fifth film directed by one of America's most prolific playwrights is as much a joy to watch as it is to hear. Already a master of the spoken word, Mamet reaches new heights in The Spanish Prisoner with his cinematic language.

- John Cooper

Directed by: David Mamet
Written by: David Mamet
Starring: Campbell Scott, Ben Gazzara, Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay, Felicity Huffman
Produced by: Jean Doumanian
Original Music by: Carter Burwell

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