DVD Review: House of Games

The Criterion Collection
Movie •••• Picture •••• Sound •••½ Extras ••••
The intentionally stilted, unrealistic dialogue that so often characterizes the work of writer/director David Mamet can't stop House of Games (1987) from pulling in audiences like suckers to the con. Mamet's directorial debut is an engrossing tale of a female psychiatrist entering the world of brilliant confidence tricksters. Games is all about intimate performances carrying scenes that hinge on a single glance or subtle inflection. Thanks to this DVD's gorgeous picture and clean, clear sound, you won't miss a thing. The sharp and color-rich transfer brings to life all the smoky interiors of Chicago gambling dens, and the dialogue-focused soundtrack allows the talk to do just what Mamet intended.

Extras are relatively few for a Criterion Collection release, but they're potent nonetheless. Mamet and actor/gambler/expert-con-man Ricky Jay deliver what may be one of the most intense, no-holds-barred commentaries ever committed to disc. New 15-minute interviews with stars Joe Mantegna and Lindsay Crouse are equally revealing. "David Mamet on House of Games," a 25-minute low-tech featurette, actually blends vintage documentary footage and interview material. You also get storyboards, a con trick that didn't quite make the movie because it was deemed too private to reveal, and a printed booklet containing an essay by critic Kent Jones and excerpts from the screenplay. [R] English, Dolby Digital mono, letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.

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