The Silent Majority

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House of Games

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House of Games

House of Games takes the viewer by the hand and whisks them along into the sordid world of con men. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet, as well as his directorial debut, House of Games remains a successful crime drama for its devilish wit, charm, and themes.

Linda Crouse plays Margaret Ford, a psychologist and author who specializes in compulsion. Early in the film, Ford finds herself mixed up in a short con, headed by the ever charming Mike, played by Joe Mantegna. Upon foiling the con, proving herself to be the wiser, and realizing that Mike and his fellow con compatriots are fairly nice gentlemen, Ford expresses interest in conducting a social experiment: She wishes to hang around her new criminal pals, in hopes of examining a con in relation to compulsion. Mike, being a nice guy, agrees. That’s the set-up. From here, the audience through Ford, is exposed to the underworld of con men and deception.

What is truly fascinating about House of Games is how damn clever the script is. The film, without empty twists and turns, remains one-step ahead of its audience without alienating the audience. It is often tempting for filmmakers to placate to audiences, giving them too much information, assuming the audience’s incompetence. House of Games avoids that. Much like the confidence game, the film gives you its confidence, and you are expected to give it yours. When you think you know where House of Games is headed, it takes a corner, leaving you in the mud. And that’s okay.

To Mamet, language is a weapon. More than guns or knives, the characters in House of Games engage in verbal games of chess, where words carry the swift deadliness of a blade. When words begin to tumble out: pay attention. That’s the poetry. The film’s use of language gives it great depth, and distinguishes it from more straightforward contributions to the genre.

House of Games is a difficult film to discuss, because one word too many will spoil the narrative for first-time viewers. It is best served fresh, so the less said, the better. What should be noted is that House of Games is not regular crime fare. There are poignant themes which dance beneath the surface. Although the world of the con is the setting for the film, it is not strictly about con men or the cons. It is an examination of language, compulsion, and deceit. Clever and inventive, House of Games is one of the finest, most intelligent crime films ever conceived.

Give it your confidence.

– – Alex Lyons

Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.

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Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 3, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Posted in crime, mystery, thriller

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