Tag Archives: Joe Mantegna

Jerry and Tom (1998)

    The Good – 68.6


Genre: Crime, Black Comedy
Duration: 107 mins
Director: Saul Rubinek
Stars: Joe Mantegna, Sam Rockwell, William H Macy

Jerry and Tom is a sharp black comedy starring Joe Mantegna and Sam Rockwell as a hit man and his protege. In his first outing as director, Saul Rubinek proves a deft touch behind the camera as the story casually spans the ten year relationship between the two eponymous characters. Rubinek stays faithful to Rick Cleveland’s stage-play by situating most of the action in small unassuming interiors. Within this more personal environment, Rubinek achieves a nice balance between the humour and the tension which ultimately gives the film a real edginess. Mantegna is superb as the increasingly disillusioned Tom and Rockwell again shows his depth as he quite expertly captures Jerry’s sad and creepy transformation from a young naive man to a cold-blooded killer. There’s an interesting dynamic between the two characters, the likes of which is not often seen and it makes for some curiously compelling drama. Furthermore, a host of great cameo appearances from the likes of William H Macy, Charles Durning, and Ted Danson help to provide this drama with an especially solid basis of acting talent. There are a couple of more contrived moments which can happen when work is translated from stage to screen and Rockwell’s descent is perhaps too sharply realised. But it generates some dark tension and that is largely what everyone was aiming for here. You won’t revisit this one too often but you will go back once in a blue moon. Intriguing.

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House of Games (1987) 3.43/5 (3)

 

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Rating: The Good – 74.4
Genre: Thriller, Crime
Duration: 102 mins
Director: David Mamet
Stars: Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, Mike Nussbaum

Mamet regular Joe Mantegna plays the charming con-man who takes straight-laced psychiatrist Lindsay Crouse under his wing as she fulfills a dangerous impulse to indulge her darker side. Naturally, things go wrong and she finds herself in more than one morally and emotionally compromising position. House of Games is the archetypal David Mamet movie in that you can hear it playing out on a stage somewhere word for word. To his eternal credit, Mamet has always managed to get the audience to forget that and just willingly dive in. It’s also arguably his most accomplished work on screen as it’s a beautifully paced and compelling little side-winder of a thriller with two strong central performances. Crouse in particular balances the two sides to her character’s personality very well and Mantegna was and always will be the ultimate deliverer of Mamet’s extraordinary words. Those two guys were born for each other.

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Redbelt (2008) 4/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Good – 72.4
Genre: Martial Arts
Duration: 99 mins
Director: David Mamet
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga

Redbelt stands as an unusual take on a film built around martial arts. Rather than dishing out a string of unrealistic fights, David Mamet’s film is a pensive drama that follows the fortunes of a deeply principled Brazilian Jui Jitsu instructor as he struggles to keep his business afloat. Chiwetel Ejiofor quietly excels in the lead role and in truth much depended on him getting his part right. He achieves a believable balance between focus and softness which helps to set the tone for the film as a whole. Alice Braga puts in an interesting turn as his ambitious wife whose familial connection to the Jui Jitsu world is only circumspectly pointed to. Tim Allen scores well against type as a famous actor who halfheartedly attempts to pay a debt to the former after he is rescued from a bar room brawl. It is this incident which sets the story in motion but it takes its time in getting there and indeed moving beyond that point. However, the slow build-up pays off well in the end because the final showdown is breath of fresh air for those of us fed up with the highly repetitive “buffy-the-vampire” style fight sequences in which fighters merely go through the motions one high kick at a time (and the obligatory throwing of opponents across a room!). Be warned before you see it though because fans of straight beat-em-ups might be disappointed. That said, true fans of martial arts will cherish this one because while Redbelt may not be an action movie it’s every bit a martial arts movie.

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