House of Games (1987)

house of games poster 1987 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice noir feel to the film

The acting has a real stage feel

Movie Info

Movie Name: House of Games

Studio: Filmhaus

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): October 11, 1987

MPAA Rating: R

house of games lindsay crouse joe mantegna ricky jay

Hey, lady….don’t hate the player, hate the game!

Psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) is successful but feels her life is empty.  When she learns one of her clients owes money, she discovers a group of con men who like to play different cons.  Led by a man named Mike (Joe Mantegna), Margaret finds herself drawn into their circle and feels alive.  When a con goes wrong and a cop (J.T. Walsh) is involved, Margaret finds herself involved in a game that is bigger than she anticipated.

Written and directed by David Mamet, House of Games is a mystery thriller.  The movie was Mamet’s feature length film he directed and was well received by critics.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #399).

I stumbled upon House of Games from a friend who was purging his DVD collection.  With decent taste, I picked up the movie from him.  While Mamet spins a great tale, I sometimes have a difficulty with Mamet’s work…but it generally is solid.

house of games lindsay crouse joe mantegna

Damn, girl…you crazy

The story is about grifters and the grift.  I always enjoyed movies like The Grifters and films about long and short cons.  Mamet is known for his rather wordy films and the movies often feel more like his stage plays than traditional films.  House of Games is no different in that sense.  In many ways, the story is predictable as a viewer, but Crouse’s character does provide a wild card in the story since she can be dissected and analyzed.  The dialogue is often chunky, but the overall product is unique and original.

The acting in the movie is intentionally flat.  The characters in many ways feel like they are just delivering lines and Lindsay Crouse is at the frontline of this.  This actually works for the end of the film because her character is revealed to be a bit of a sociopath.  She’s socially awkward and in many ways turns the tables on the slicker Joe Mantegna.  The movie has a rich supporting cast with Ricky Jay, J.T. Walsh, William H. Macy, and Mike Nussbaum (many of these character are “frequent players” in the David Mamet catalogue).

house of games lindsay crouse gun

Yeah…I like David Bowie…how did you guess?

The movie has a great noir feel.  The characters inhabit this dark world of shadows and lies.  The film reflects this in many ways and Mamet’s style is slick and vivid.  It is a lot about the set-up in the movie and the movie goes between very day-to-day shots and stylized shots well.

Though I had a good idea of where House of Games was going, I still enjoyed the film.  The writing was deft and skilled and this is a trend of Mamet who has crafted a lot of great works over the years.  While Lindsay Crouse feels intentionally bland in the film, her character’s path is an interesting one and lends itself to multiple viewing…play the game and enjoy.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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