The Spanish Prisoner

June 16, 2007 - David Mamet wrote and directed this 1997 drama about a good man suspected of getting up to no good. Campbell Scott, Steve Martin, Felicity Huffman and Rebecca Pidgeon star. Ed O'Neill, from Married with Children, has a small role.

Scott plays Joe Ross, who has invented some sort of process for cornering the market and making lots of money. Ben Gazzara is his boss. As the movie opens, they're down in the Caribbean with secretary Susan (Pidgeon) pitching investors.

This is where Joe meets Jimmy (Martin), an apparently wealthy man who offers Joe $1,000 for his camera. Joe gives it to him for free and a friendship is born. When they get back to New York, Jimmy makes Joe a member of his club, opens a Swiss bank account for him, and offers to help Joe get his fair share of the proceeds from the process. Joe buys it all until a chance encounter makes it clear that Jimmy is not who he seems and that Joe is in some deep, deep shit.

Overall review: *** This being a work from Mamet, there is an economy of words here. Characters do not have long, drawn out conversations. Their encounters are quick and efficient and every word is significant. My only problem is that the plot is contrived in the sense that if, at any point, Joe does anything other than what he does, it will all fall apart. Still, this movie should remind you to say what you mean, mean what you say, and don't take anything at face value.