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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)
Price: CDN$ 74.98
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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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Customer Reviews

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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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Con Movie April 1 2004
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. The movie moves along with excellent pace without feeling rushed or forced. Steve Martin and Campbell Scott are excellent. There are a couple of secondary characters who seem to be overracting or are at least very deliberate; By the end of the movie you'll realize that this is appropiate and not caused by bad acting.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Cure for Insomnia March 27 2004
Format:VHS Tape
With the exception of Campbell Scott`s convincing acting, this movie has little or nothing to offer. This is supposed to be a suspenseful mistery about what people seem to be and what they really are, a subject that is presented in most of director David Mamet`s films. However, the plot is contrived at best, the pacing drags endlessly and the characters are just tepid and souless, excepting the lead that somewhat makes the viewer care a bit. The acting is also far from excellent and the direction does nothing to improve the slowness of the movie. The plot twists are quite irrelevant too, since the story is so uninteresting. "The Spanish Prisoner" is just another forgettable and useless movie about cons and burglars, and it`s as bad as "Heist", another Mamet film that goes nowhere and also fails to engage.
A good one to ignore.
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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 through. But it also sports some yawning plot holes.
The central premise hinges on an inventor keeping a SOLE copy of his proof-of-concept in his safe behind a picture, with no other copies, and still thinking that it's alright to carry this in his armpits to a public park. As though this were not enough, the FBI then finds exactly the same kind of a notebook to pull off a spoof. Finally, it's perhaps alright to drive a knife into someone without worrying about fingerprints. How's that for a plot hole.
Fortunately, the screenplay, the music and the occasionally thrilling dialogue save the day. On balance, an entertaining flick. Besides, it's one of the few suspenseful movies with a PG rating, so the entire family could watch it too.
Recommended rental.
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Most recent customer reviews
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. 21 2004 by C.J. Hustwick
4.0 out of 5 stars Mamet's Best
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... Read more
Published on Dec 16 2003 by Andy Orrock
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
4.0 out of 5 stars A low-keyed spoof of the genre
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... Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2003 by Dennis Littrell
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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