Relatively speaking, this has to be considered David Mamet's most commercial piece to date. Relative, that is, to one starring Joe Mantegna or William H. Macy. A cast headed by Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito, in addition to Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet's wife), and Ricky Jay (a Mamet regular), may get the movie into wide release in shopping-mall multiplexes instead of limited release on the specialty circuit. But it hardly constitutes the greediest gang of screen thieves ever assembled. In any event the cast gives Mamet everything he needs (as distinct from everything he might commercially desire or dream of), even, most surprisingly, Rebecca Pidgeon, the very picture of self-confidence and chutzpah in the part of the femme fatale. The compulsory plot twists -- twists upon twists upon twists -- do get a bit balled up. These are not, needless to say, forced on Mamet by box-office dictate. They have always been an essential ingredient in his bag of tricks. But the self-imposed obligation to top himself, or at least match himself, produces more and more snarls the farther the plot is spun out. The real fun of the thing, though, is the glitteringly polished Mamet dialogue: terse, repetitive, rhythmical, idiomatic, eminently quotable (Rockwell: "I'll be as quiet as an ant pissing on cotton." Hackman: "I don't want you as quiet as an ant pissing on cotton. I want you as quiet as an ant not even thinking about pissing on cotton"). More than any excerpt can possibly show, certainly more than any competitive outburst of action, the edge-of-your-seat thrill of the dialogue is in the dazzling athleticism with which the conversational ball is kept in the air, batted back and forth, treated to trick spins and wicked spikes and diving saves, never permitted to touch the ground, never booted away in frustration or disgust. It would be true to say that this style of dialogue draws attention to itself. It would be no less true to say that it amply repays such attention. (2001) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R


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