Writer David Mamet’s first trip behind the camera as a director is entertaining good fun, an American film noir with Hitchcockian touches and a few dead bodies along the way. The action unfolds at a steady pace.
Any story that pairs a psychiatrist and a con man has possibilities. Here the famous Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) finds her patients’ lives more interesting than her own, and with the unwitting encouragement of her mentor (Lilia Skala), allows herself to be drawn into a nest of confidence sharks.
In the tense atmosphere of a smoky backroom cardtable, the irresistible heel Mike (Joe Mantegna) sets her up for a $6,000 drubbing. The good doctor gets out of that one by comic chance, but drawn to Mike and his dangerous life, she comes back the next night for more.
Mantegna is right on target as one of the screen’s most likable baddies. His big con involves an elaborate setup to convince a conventioneer, picked up by partner Mike Nussbaum, to offer ‘security’ for a suitcase full of money found on the street. House of Games cleverly selects its cons, explains their workings, then twists them around again, all without boring or losing the viewer.