Criterion Sunday 486: Homicide (1991)

There are definitely things I like about a Mamet film. It looks great for a start (Roger Deakins shot this), moody in just the right ways. The characters are strong types, generic in a way, but in a rather pleasing way, but that’s partly the familiarity you have with policiers. There’s definitely a format by which crimes get solved. The cops aren’t exactly heroes, but they are apparently more effective than the FBI. Still, the ones we see here know how to get stuff done, none more than Joe Mantegna’s Bobby Gold (he’s playing Jewish American here). Still, you have to have a real love for Mamet’s dialogue to get with his films fully, and perhaps I just lack that. It’s distinctive I admit, but it has a musical patter to it that pulls me out a bit (if there had been dancing, then… maybe I’d be fine). In any case, there are fine performances and a lot to like here, even for those who don’t love their Mamet.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director/Writer David Mamet; Cinematographer Roger Deakins; Starring Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy, Ving Rhames; Length 101 minutes.

Seen at home (DVD), Wellington, Sunday 12 December 2021.

Criterion Sunday 399: House of Games (1987)

For better or for worse, there are films that I’ve only watched because they’re in the Criterion Collection and I’m engaged in this project to watch them all in spine order. There’s nothing specifically I have against David Mamet or his films — I’ve seen quite a few of them already as it is — but I’m not really seeking out any more of his particularly aggressive masculine energy in cinema, and so there was little likelihood of me checking out his debut as a director for any other reason. It’s certainly accomplished, and I don’t regret watching it, but the quality that puts me off seeking out his films is also what makes me wary of this one. At the heart of the film is Lindsay Crouse, introduced in none-more-80s power fashions as a famous psychotherapist (she’s written a book), famous enough it seems to make her a mark for a bunch of shady guys (chief among them Joe Mantegna) playing their confidence tricks in the belief that they’re smarter than her. Things take various turns that I’m not interested in spoiling here, but needless to say there are all kinds of games being played here, not least perhaps on the audience. Maybe Mamet himself is a kind of conman, but there’s enough that’s pleasurable about the construction and payoff in this film to make me want to think the best of some of the behaviour, which I assume is largely because these characters live with a sort of in-built misogyny as part of their film noir-like hardboiled worldview, in which some people are just born marks to their shady skills.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director/Writer David Mamet; Cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía; Starring Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, Lilia Skala, Mike Nussbaum; Length 102 minutes.

Seen at home (Blu-ray), Wellington, Sunday 14 February 2021.