7.2/10
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269 user 103 critic

The Spanish Prisoner (1997)

Trailer
1:54 | Trailer
An employee of a corporation with a lucrative secret process is tempted to betray it. But there's more to it than that.

Director:

David Mamet

Writer:

David Mamet
3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Campbell Scott ... Joe Ross
Ricky Jay ... George Lang
Rebecca Pidgeon ... Susan Ricci
Richard L. Friedman Richard L. Friedman ... Businessman
Ben Gazzara ... Klein
Jerry Graff Jerry Graff ... Businessman
G. Roy Levin G. Roy Levin ... Businessman
Hilary Hinckle Hilary Hinckle ... Resort Concierge
David Pittu ... Resort Manager
Steve Martin ... Jimmy Dell
Christopher Kaldor Christopher Kaldor ... Dell's Bodyguard
Felicity Huffman ... McCune
Gary McDonald Gary McDonald ... Ticket Agent
Mike Robinson Mike Robinson ... Security Person (as Michael Robinson)
Olivia Tecosky Olivia Tecosky ... Flight Attendant
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Storyline

Joe Ross is a rising star. He's designed a process that will make his company millions. He wants a bonus for this work, but fears his boss will stiff him. He meets a wealthy stranger, Jimmy Dell, and they strike up an off-kilter friendship. When the boss seems to set Ross up to get nothing, he seeks Dell's help. Then he learns Dell is not what he seems, so he contacts an FBI agent through his tightly-wound assistant, Susan Ricci. The FBI asks him to help entrap Dell. He accepts, a sting is arranged, but suddenly it's he who's been conned out of the process and framed for murder. Bewildered and desperate, he enlists Susan's aid to prove his innocence. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Not since "The Firm" has one movie had you trusting so few and guessing so much. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements including tension, some violent images and brief language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 May 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Spanish Prisoner See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$124,011, 5 April 1998

Gross USA:

$9,593,903

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,593,903
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David Mamet cast Steve Martin in an atypically villainous role after seeing him perform in Waiting for Godot on stage. He felt instinctively that comedians can make very strong dramatic actors as Jackie Gleason proved in The Hustler (1961) and Jerry Lewis did in The King of Comedy (1982). See more »

Goofs

When Susan and Joe leave the airport by bus, the police cars that have just arrived are parked about 20ft from the bus. The bus pulls away as the two of them begin to talk. After a bit of talk we see that the bus had only traveled about 10ft despite previous shots establishing otherwise. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Airport Security: What is the purpose of your trip, please?
Joe Ross: Business.
Airport Security: Thank you and welcome to St. Estéphe.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Chicago Fire: Trading in Scuttlebutt (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
Written by Frank R. Adams (as Frank Adams), William M. Hough (as Will Hough),
Joseph E. Howard (as Joseph Howard) and Harold Orlob
Arranged by Play-Rite Music Rolls, Inc.
Played at the carousel
See more »

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User Reviews

Completely Inane
12 April 1999 | by MrsRainbowSee all my reviews

Well, if they learned one thing from making this film, I hope it's that Mamet should never sit in a director's chair again. I'm not prejudiced against Mamet. I like some of his films, particularly Glengarry Glen Ross, which is actually one of my favorites. But The Spanish Prisoner plays and sounds like a high school production. Literally.

I cannot for the life of me understand how this film can be called intelligent. Yes, it does not rely on violence, sex, swearing, drugs, alcohol, traffic violations, or even jaywalking to at least make it interesting. So call it a moral film, whatever that means. Oh, yes, it has a "plot." I assume that is why it's called intelligent.

I sat through this "plot" not knowing a thing about the film and I could see and hear the twists coming like I was tied to a post watching a host of bison pounding impending death into my ears. Plus it had more holes in it than a room full of acupuncture patients.

To begin, the editing was AWFUL, particularly the initial 30 minutes. Typically, when two characters walk into a room, it really does look like they were engrossed in conversation before walking in front of the camera. But in TSP, it looks like Mamet had just given the go ahead to roll tape. It played like it was made up of strips of paper cut up with scissors and then glued together. There might as well have been a speedbump noise every time there was a scene change.

And the dialogue?! What is even more discouraging than the abysmal quality of most films coming out now is when we're sold a piece of goods and people are convinced that it's intelligent. At least with the first problem, we're merely disgruntled. With the second, we're delusional. I find that depressing. So this film depressed me for that reason.

How contrived TSP is is metaphorically represented by the prime element of its plot structure: "The System." OK? I don't mind vague points. But this is just lazy. Why couldn't he just have made it top-secret information which could be used for insider trading? Or information about a revolutionary new product? The plot of Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Mamet may be acclaimed as a "genius," but he has to do more than throw out a script with a twist to have me sacrificing my first-born to his word processor.

I will grant you that art is not life. That said, it should not be more artificial than artifice requires. If Mamet hopes to continue holding an audience made up of more than sophomoric dilettantes, he should take some advice from another author. The "overdone or come tardy off," though it might impress some, "cannot but make the judicious grieve." Reform it altogether, David.


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