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Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) is a trusting man. Having invented a unique and valuable process (not explained) on behalf of his company (which does/make something or other), Joe is anxious to be guaranteed a super bonus, urged on by friend and colleague George (Ricky Jay) but his slippery boss Klein (Ben Gazzara) manages to evade being pinned down. After a small business summit with potential investors on the Caribbean island of St Estephe, the frustrated Joe has a strange encounter with jetsetting Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin), who offers suggestions, moral support and even help to get what is due to him. The office newcomer, secretary Susan (Rebecca Pidgeon), also offers moral support – and more, if Joe would let her! – as the secret process turns into the object of everyone’s attention. Surrounded by so many well wishers, Joe is surprised when even the FBI take an interest and fails to recognise that things have just got a whole lot more twisted. No-one seems what they seem. . .

"At first there is the Mamet-familiar territory of the business environment; as in Glengarry Glen Ross, Mamet touches on themes of intra-corporate loyalty, decency, reward and competition, with honour and self esteem as prizes. But we soon zip out of this neighbourhood into a spiky world of manipulation, trickery and illusion, created so seamlessly that we can never quite spot the bad guy. Or girl. Or guys. Or girls. The only thing we are certain of in this story is that Joe Ross is not the one trying to con Joe Ross. Mamet’s writing skills have always impressed, and here his filmmaking sense is on show, full of subtlety and daring. Steve Martin as the sinister Jimmy Dell? Rebecca Pidgeon as the ultra-sweet, hip yet flawed office girl? These casting decisions, as well as Gazzara as Klein, are brilliant choices, and very much in keeping with Mamet’s goal: obscure your hand. And they all give brilliant performances, while Mamet uses the medium of film to tantalise us with the construct he has made. In fact, it’s hard to talk about much of the film without giving away some of the revelations and surprises. As for the music, it echoes with melancholy and the orchestral colours are not at all predictable. Great Stuff."
Andrew L. Urban

"David Mamet’s superb film noir is packed to the brim with ingredients for an excellent film. Firstly there’s the plot – full of intrigue, mystery, ingenuity and artful surprise. Mamet’s script is filled with substance and words are used to great effect to illustrate and divulge much of the characters. It’s also punctuated by wonderful lines such as ‘beware of all enterprises that require new clothes’. The characters are beautifully written – each contain elements that demand attention. Like The Sting, The Spanish Prisoner is a con, an elaborately planned and staged trick, which we take extreme delight in being a part of. And yes, the outcome is important, but what is much more thrilling and satisfying is the maze of twists and turns through which we struggle in our quest to discover who is what and why. The cast is wonderful: Campbell Scott plays the honest do-gooder with intelligence and integrity; Steve Martin is a revelation as Jimmy Dell; Ricky Jay, marvellous; Ben Gazzara, splendid and Rebecca Pidgeon, bewitching. Like a magician who shows he has nothing hidden up his sleeve, the initial action all takes place in the sunny Caribbean, where the longest shadow is behind a dancing palm tree. Tension and suspicion are woven from the intricacy of life’s mysteries, not ominous figures lurking in dark background, all aided by Carter Burwell’s mesmerising score. The ironies of life’s conspiracies interwoven with the man-made ones, form a gripping, mystifying, compulsive thriller which hooks the viewer from the start, then slowly but surely reels him in frame by frame. Intelligent and fascinating with touches of subtlety, The Spanish Prisoner offers tension, eloquence and characters which will stop and make you think."
Louise Keller

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CAST: Campbell Scott, Rebecca Pidgeon, Steve Martin, Ricky Jay, Ben Gazzara, Felicity Huffman, Ed O’Neill

DIRECTOR: David Mamet

PRODUCER: Jean Doumanian

SCRIPT: David Mamet

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gabriel Beristain

EDITOR: Barbara Tulliver

MUSIC: Carter Burwell


RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 15, 1998

Video release: March 23, 1999
Video Distributor: Roadshow Home Entertainment

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