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The Spanish Prisoner

201 customer reviews

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(Apr 03, 1998)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Written and directed by David Mamet (House of Games), THE SPANISH PRISONER is a complex and compelling tale featuring a star-studded cast. Joe Ross (Campbell Scott, Singles) is in the Caribbean, pitching a million-dollar idea to his company. However, Joe is afraid that his boss, Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara, Anatomy of a Murder), will not reward him for his work. In walks Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin, L.A. Story), a mysterious businessman who is willing to help Joe after he gets scammed by Klein. But all is not what it seems, leading Joe, his assistant (Rebecca Pidgeon, Red), and an FBI agent (Felicity Huffman, TV’s “Desperate Housewives”) into a web of deceit and murder.

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ricky Jay, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ben Gazzara, Steve Martin, Campbell Scott
  • Directors: David Mamet
  • Producers: Jean Doumanian
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 3, 1998
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767818113
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,521 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Spanish Prisoner" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By cookieman108 on July 10, 2004
Format: DVD
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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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Craig Bleakley on February 2, 1999
Format: DVD
First, there is Mamet's dialogue: punchy, pungent, at once surreal and downright earthy, a pidgin English that starts out sounding weird and contrived in the actor's mouths and ends sounding as honest as breathing. Remember, this guy is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
Then there's Mamet's plotting: we know there are going to be "bad" people--masters of the Big Con--conniving to steal Campbell Scott's lucrartive "process" (one of the best MacGuffin's since Hitchcock), but trying to determine who's in on it and who's an innocent (?) bystander is one of the ongoing delightful puzzles of the movie. Mamet slowly reveals the true colors of his characters like a master at stud poker. Eventually poor Campbell realizes he's been robbed, framed and screwed eight ways til Sunday (in a brilliant interrogation scene where most of the pieces come together), and as viewers, we feel as tightly trapped as he does.
Finally there are the perfomaces: Scott's nicely understated playing of the niave but brainy techno-geek, Steve Martin's deft characterization of the moody, mysterious millionare, and Rebecca Pigeon's suspiciously winsome gal Friday. Many of Mamet's old "Chicago school" regulars show up, though poor Ricky Jay gets stuck mouthing a lot of platitudes--one of the few weakness of Mamet's script.
Yes, maybe this film isn't quite as brilliant as "House of Games," Mamet's previous exploration of the Big Con, but darn few movies are. The deus ex machina ending is less satisfying than "House"'s more character-driven conclusion, and I sure miss Joe Mantegna (no one spits out Mamet's dialog with quite his authority). Nonetheless, "Prisoner" stands up to multiple viewings without losing its appeal or mystery, and may in fact require more than one viewing in order to be truly appreciated for its labyrinthine plotting and underlying themes.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 8, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Written and directed by David Mamet, this clever thriller of industrial espionage is full of surprising twists and turns which keep the viewer on the edge of the seat. Joe Ross (Campbell Scott), a young man working under a special contract, has developed "the process" which will allow a company to control the global market. Only Ross and the company president, Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara), have keys to the safe where the notes on the process are kept, and high security has been maintained, but Ross is edgy. Klein has not paid him a bonus and is dragging his feet about rewarding him appropriately.

Devious manipulators conspire to make Ross even more uncertain about Klein's loyalty, hoping they can steal the formula and sell it to European or Japanese competitors. Front and center in the plot is Jimmy Dell (smarmily played by Steve Martin), who masquerades as a very wealthy high flyer, appealing to Ross's desire to get what he deserves and fears he won't get from Mr. Klein. Appealing to Ross's natural paranoia, Dell soon has him doing exactly what he wants, as Ross tries to "protect" himself from Klein.

This intricately plotted conspiracy keeps the viewer on the edge of the chair, trying to figure out what is going on. As Ross begins to discover Dell's lies, the film offers one surprise after another, and these surprises keep coming right up to the blockbuster ending. Viewers will be fascinated to look back to see how the conspiracy and the plotting have set them up for the surprises. The music introducing the film is appropriately romantic, mysterious, and ominous, and repeats throughout for emphasis. The cinematography (Gabriel Beristain), even for somewhat trite scenes, is effective and adds to the suspense.
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Is "The Spanish Prisoner" going to be issued on Blu-Ray?
I care, and know not.
Sep 18, 2010 by Goblin Jon: Profondo Rosso |  See all 4 posts
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