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House of Games (Widescreen/Full Screen)

Lindsay Crouse , Joe Mantegna , David Mamet    R (Restricted)   DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 66.13
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David Mamet's 1987 directorial debut was this mesmerizing study of control and seduction between two kinds of detached observers: a gambler who is also a con artist, and a psychotherapist who is also an emerging pop-psych guru in the book market. The latter (played by Lindsay Crouse) meets the former (Joe Mantegna) when one of her clients is driven to despair from his debts to the card shark. Mantegna's character agrees to drop the IOUs in exchange for Crouse's attention at the seedy House of Games in Seattle, a mecca for con men to talk shop and hustle unsuspecting customers. The shrink gets so caught up in the arcane rules and world view of her guide over subsequent days that she observes--with no false rapture--various stings in progress inside and outside the club. Mamet's story finally becomes a fascinating study of two people protecting and extending their respective cosmologies the way rival predators fight for the same piece of turf. The psychological challenge is compelling; so is the stylized dialogue, with its pattern of pauses and hiccups and humming meter. Mostly shooting at night, Mamet also gave Seattle a different look from previous filmmakers, turning its familiar puddles into concentrations of liquid neon and poisonous noir. --Tom Keogh

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Game On! Oct. 14 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A story about a writer who gets mixed up with a con-artist. A psychological thriller with twists all over. A classic Mamet film with his classic "abrupt cuts" in the dialogue, acting, film cuts and scene styles. Excellent stuff for 1987.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Trust no one" July 16 2004
Format:DVD
David Mamet's "House of Games," is another of that director's giant flip jobs. I've been working my way through the Mamet catalogue, and one can't help but feel the director sees the world itself as a giant con. Well, that's perhaps a bit simplistic, but Mamet does cling, in movie after movie, to some core principles. One of these is that you must trust no one. In "Spartan," "The Spanish Prisoner," and "House of Games," this very line is uttered, usually by a villain to an innocent. This sounds like a negative credo, but it really isn't. First, consider who's issuing the warning: the villain. Will the innocent learn from experience? And will the learning result in corruption? (Important questions for Mamet.) Second, trusting yourself and knowing yourself (weaknesses included) in a dangerous world is advisable, necessary, in order to survive . I have to believe Mamet is a big reader of Joseph Conrad.
The story behind "House of Games," involves Lindsay Crouse as Margaret Ford, a doctor and popular author. Her "big book" is titled "Driven," about compulsive and addictive personalities. It doesn't take long to figure out the book is about herself. So driven is Margaret that she is beginning to make Freudian slips in her conversations, slips that reveal dark corners of her own personality. She may be heading for a breakdown - and a teaching colleague warns her, tells her she must slow down. But "slowing down" comes as another writing project presents itself, seemingly accidently due to the dilemma of a patient , when Margaret is introduced to the world of the Con at a local bar and pool hall called "House of Games." This introduction comes at the hands of Mike (Joe Mantegna), a handsome and slick con man who is willing to provide a tour - though he does warn her: "Trust no one.
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Format:DVD
As one other reviewer here very accurately put it: "we've become smarter since this movie was made". Especially when we've since seen mega-stunners like the "Usual suspects" or "Sixth Sense", movies that took the "film with a twist"-genre to a whole new plataeu.
A hotshot psychologist finds out the hard way that her trade doesn't cut it much down at the streets when she becomes emotionally (and otherwise) involved with a con-man and his circuit. As she's awed by all the "rules" and even more so the tricks that make the con-world spin, she asks to be "shown more", only to see that being shown more includes being caught in an invisible and catastrophic spider web. I don't want to give the plot away since this is obviously the strength of the film, but "House of Games" was one of the premier twist films for the time it was made, even if it might seem dated today.
Some of the twists might (emphasis on the "might") be somewhat predictable but that would be the case only for the very initiated viewer.
Mamet has got some great scripts under his belt, but if there's one thing that seriously undermines his film hee (he also directed it) is the acting of J.Crouse. While Joe Mantegna (the other lead in the movie) is in my opinion absolutely great, Crouse gives a half-dead performance, wooden and surreally uninspired, especially when one considers that she was acting (?) a part in a solid story. Were it not for her terrible performance this movie would be elevated into whole new heights.
Some people thought that the dialogue was problematic, but in my view it's exactly the bizzarity of the dialogue that makes the "House of Games" all the more special.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Look Out for The Tell...." May 26 2004
Format:DVD
....or, "The Large Con consists of a series of Small Cons put in an 'attractive' order".
....or, "Everybody's got a little bit of small con in them. Well, some folks have larger cons..."
I saw this movie again and, despite my distaste for certain aspects of the Mamet approach (He wishes actors to read the dialog as written, without emoting too much. The emoting is somehow brought across in the words. In my opinion sometimes the dialog comes off as more staccato than true life, but who am I? Mamet is the world renown author/director, here. I am simply a hack reviewer--but I digress)...this, I think, is a very cool movie with a lot going for it. The chemistry with Crouse and Mantegna is subtly packaged...the cool psychologist becomes child like to the swaggering, but one step from being oily, con-man. She wanted so much to believe that she was being allowed in a world of secrets, privy to only a few, so she trusted this guy to Father her thru this mesh of crosses and double-crossings.
Those moments with the con-artist to her were romantic, exciting, hell, downright sexy and she was feeling more alive than the sterile clinical environment offered to her as a psychologist. Until, that is, The Big Tell gave her a kick in her nether regions.
What makes the movie a surreal experience is that on one level anyone who is in movie making and story telling (or sometimes health services like psychiatry/psychology) is some what of a con artist that we all surrender to one way or another. And we in the audience usually have to remind ourselves to Look Out for The Tell...do you see where I'm going with this? Good. Remember then. And see this movie. It's a good one.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe these reviews!
It may be due to the fact that I was only 7 when this film premiered, but I found House of Games to be atrocious! Read more
Published on June 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars When the theory is seduced...
House of games is one of my eternal favorites ones. I watch it at least once each year. It's a Pandora's box for everyone. First at all Mamet is a very clever scripter. Read more
Published on May 19 2004 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
4.0 out of 5 stars Catharsis
HOUSE OF GAMES presents the audience with one who craves relief from a life of quiet desperation.
Lindsay Crouse is Dr. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2003 by Joseph Haschka
5.0 out of 5 stars Who is the real con artist ?
Lindsay Crouse plays a psychologist who is treating an adictive gambler. In the middle of their session, he pulls out a gun. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2003 by the wizard of uz
5.0 out of 5 stars a chick rather than chic flick?
All discussion of Mamet's art aside, I recommend this film to female audiences. Lindsay Crouse's performance has been deservedly positively reviewed above, but what hasn't yet been... Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2003 by ysgwd
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea poorly executed
The thing about House Of Games is that you're sure its lame until the last 30 minutes or so and after you've finished watching it, you still can't decide if you like it or not. Read more
Published on May 31 2003 by "autumnrhythm"
5.0 out of 5 stars Lindsay Crouse and cast bring down the HOUSE!
THE HOUSE OF GAMES is the kind of film that lingers with you long after you've turned your tv off and gone to bed. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2003 by Angie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
Great movie and acting! Wonderful story with intriguing plot.
Published on Dec 26 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better
David Mamet's directorial debut offers a nice story idea, but the sting in the tale becomes obvious far too early, leaving attentive viewers with little to do but wonder just what... Read more
Published on June 1 2002 by Steven Reynolds
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