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The Spanish Prisoner (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Bilingual)

Steve Martin , Ben Gazzara , David Mamet    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
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Campbell Scott plays a green young technocrat who invents a secret and highly successful high-tech process that, it appears, most of the free world would like to get their hands on. His own company may not be dealing with him fairly, and competitors are lurking around every street corner and kiddie carousel in New York (not to mention Caribbean hideaways) hoping to steal, cajole, or trick him out of the formula. The plot is as full of switchbacks as a mountain highway, and the delights are in watching it unfold around Scott, who is not so much of a naif that he doesn't catch on that not only his formula, but his life, are in dire danger. Steve Martin is consummately assured--and scary as hell--as a wealthy big shot determined to come out on top. David Mamet's script is refreshingly free from his trademark mannerisms; it's his most satisfying film since 1987's House of Games. --Anne Hurley

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Most helpful customer reviews
The art of the confidence game, or con, for short...very few manage to bring it to the screen as well or a clever as David Mamet, and The Spanish Prisoner (1997) is, while not in my opinion his best, but better than most, and certainly is a good display of Mamet's writing and style for direction. Written and directed by Mamet (House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wag the Dog), the film stars Campbell Scott, Steve Martin, Ben Gazzara, and Rebecca Pidgeon (who's married to Mamet).
Scott plays Joseph Ross, an inventor who creates a top secret mathematical formula of sorts intended to allow for the manipulation of the stock market somehow, and has the potential to make a lot, a whole lot, of money for the company he works for...problem is Ross is beginning to have doubts about receiving his fair share, what he believes he's entitled to, from the company that plans to utilize the formula. As he tries to negotiate an equitable agreement with the company, he meets a well to do businessman by the name of Julian 'Jimmy' Dell (Martin) to which they become friendly, with Jimmy even offering to assist Joseph by putting him in contact with a lawyer that deals with contract law and proprietary information. But nothing is what it seems in this film, as Joseph soon learns as he's accused of theft of the formula, and even murder, as evidence begins appearing that certainly points the finger at him, becoming the perfect patsy. Will he be able to fully understand the intricacies of the con and learn who's involved before he captured by the police and/or FBI? I know, but you'll just have to watch to find out...
I really enjoyed this film, and all its' intricate twists and turns.
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2.0 out of 5 stars If this is Mamet's best... May 17 2004
...then I'll pass on the rest. Seriously, The Spanish Prisoner represents a decent movie idea soured by numerous miscasts, spotty acting, and deadful dialogue. I really can't believe the praise it was given when it came out. I really had to wonder if this was the same movie that the critics saw.
Steve Martin is quite good (a welcome change from his hammy, over-the-top comedy performances) and Campbell Scott could certainly hold his own, despite his character's too-flawless-to-be-believeable persona. Rebecca Pidgeon is terrible. Every time she appeared on screen, I just rolled my eyes, counting the seconds until she went away.
The premise certainly is interesting. I like plot twists just as much as anyone else, but the end of the film does not fill in the holes like other thrillers do (think The Usual Suspects). The pacing is really uneven and at times you're convinced that Mamet was directing a play and not a movie.
That can be blamed on Mamet's dumb dialogue. Rarely do I ever hear people speak the way they do in The Spanish Prisoner apart from other really bad dramas. The only suspension of disbelief is that you won't believe this came from such an experienced man.
I'm serious, if this is David Mamet's best movie, I'm out.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mamet's Best Dec 16 2003
If you can look beyond the usual staccato Mametian dialogue and the uneveness always caused by casting Mamet's wife Rebecca Pidgeon in the leading female role, then you've got yourself a very fine movie - probably David Mamet's best as writer/director in my opinion. I know many people will choose 'House of Games,' but I thought the 'Prisoner' storyline was better, and I really like the work turned in by Mamet novices Campbell Scott (whose combination of brains and naivete drives the film), Ben Gazzara and especially Steve Martin, who plays totally against type here.
In the Mamet-penned 'Wag the Dog' we hear over and over again "It's a pageant." Replace that here with "It's a process." We hear over and over again about The Process. We never find out what exactly the Process is (that's not the point), but all actions and reactions in 'Prisoner' involve securing, stealing and resecuring The Process. It's a classic Mametian plot device and it works great here.
For Mamet fans, there's a subset of regulars, most notably Mamet house players Ricky Jay and Jerry Graff. ['Glengarry Glen Ross' fans ought to recognize that name.]
Also - be on the lookout for Ed O'Neill for a brief - but memorable - turn as an FBI Team Leader.
And keep your eyes on that suitcase.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A low-keyed spoof of the genre Oct. 30 2003
Format:VHS Tape
There's a little of the famous repetitive, stylized Mamet dialogue, especially in the beginning of this intriguing, tongue-in-cheek thriller, but mostly what director Mamet does is play it (almost) straight. The premise is a con, called "the Spanish Prisoner" con. Steve Martin is the chief con artist, Jimmy Dell, while Campbell Scott is the victim, Joe Ross, whose proprietary business formula--displayed prominently throughout the movie as a red bound notebook--is the booty.
Most of us are familiar with this con from our e-mail where it typically takes the form of an African or the Middle Eastern princess seeking help from us to escape from a corrupt society or an oppressive husband. We are advised that she has many millions of dollars but can't get them out of the country without our help in the form of a few thousand bucks for various fees, etc. If we send the money we are assured that we will get a significant percentage of the millions.
Here the come-on includes a dark-haired beauty we see only in passing and in photos. Playing her foil is Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet's talented wife) as Susan Ricci, a somewhat ditzy secretary for Joe's company. At the beginning everything is opaque and intriguing. It's not clear who is who, and who can be trusted and who can't. Indeed if this movie had a theme it would be "you can't trust anybody." The real worry, however, seems to be whether Joe will get paid for his work. Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara) keeps putting him off. And so it appears that we may be viewing another business and relationships satire for which Mamet is justly famous (e.g., Glengarry Glen Ross 1992), but after a bit we begin to see the sinister plot unfold.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Con Movie
A very clever story with many intricate plot twists to keep you guessing. However, all of the twists are realistic and never gratuitous or done without purpose. Read more
Published on April 1 2004 by SandmanVI
1.0 out of 5 stars A Cure for Insomnia
With the exception of Campbell Scott`s convincing acting, this movie has little or nothing to offer. Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by gonn1000
I can see why this very well made film ranks at roughly a 3 out of 5 on Amazon. It's very stylishly done, no doubt, and it will keep you on the edge of your sofa all the way... Read more
Published on March 20 2004 by Shashank Tripathi
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than "House of Games", but lacking emotion.
This is another Mamet con movie, and I would rate it four stars for the con and the intricacies of its design. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2004 by C.J. Hustwick
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANTLY SUBTLE SPOOF!!
I think many people missed the point of this film. It isn't till the end (and after a second viewing) that you realize that, you, much like the main character, have been conned. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Great plot twists, but takes a wrong turn
Many of the other reviews have captured my feelings about "The Spanish Prisoner." Certainly it was very well made. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2003 by Daniel S. Russell
3.0 out of 5 stars I didn't catch that David - could you repeat it? Thanks.
I watched this when it initially came out, enjoyed it and watched it again recently. This time I found it to be disappointing for a number of reasons:
1. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant? Crap? I can't decide.
I've watched this movie three times in last 24 hours and I can't decide if it's brilliant or just plain crap. Read more
Published on July 27 2003 by S. Hoffman
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a Chippendale chair; more great Mamet craftsmanship
Mamet seems to be attracted to a particular style of acting that doesn't compete with his screenplays, as if too much emotionalism or sometimes too much realism would get in its... Read more
Published on May 15 2003 by Earl Hazell
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