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House of Games (1987)

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A psychiatrist comes to the aid of a compulsive gambler and is led by a smooth-talking grifter into the shadowy but compelling world of stings, scams, and con men.

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(screenplay), (story) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 6 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Margaret Ford
... Mike
... Joey
... Dr. Littauer
... The Businessman
Willo Hausman ... Girl with Book
Karen Kohlhaas ... Prison Ward Patient
... Billy Hahn (as Steve Goldstein)
... Bartender / House of Games
... George / Vegas Man
G. Roy Levin ... Poker Player
Bob Lumbra ... Poker Player
Andy Potok ... Poker Player
Allen Soule ... Poker Player
Ben Blakeman ... Bartender / Charlie's Tavern
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Storyline

A famous psychologist, Margaret Ford, decides to try to help one of her patients get out of a gambling debt. She visits the bar where Mike, to whom the debt is owed, runs poker games. He convinces her to help him in a game: her assignment is to look for "tells", or give-away body language. What seems easy to her becomes much more complex. Written by John J. Magee <magee@helix.mgh.harvard.edu>

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Taglines:

Human nature is a sucker bet. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

14 October 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bordet fanger  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$116,677, 18 October 1987, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,585,639
See more on IMDbPro »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was #1 on Roger Ebert 's list of the "Best Films of 1987." See more »

Goofs

When Margaret is talking with Maria outside at the picnic table she lights a cigarette with her right hand and in the process of removing the cigarette from her mouth it changes to her left hand. See more »

Quotes

Mike: I read a book once which said this: If you're fired from your job, when you're going home, take something. A pencil... Something to assert yourself. Take a memento. Take something from life.
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Soundtracks

This True Love Stopped For You (But Not For Me)
by Rokko Jans
Sung by June Shellene
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User Reviews

 
The Con Never Ends In "House Of Games"
15 August 2000 | by See all my reviews

David Mamet wrote the screenplay and made his directorial debut with `House of Games,' a character study fraught with psychological overtones, in which a psychiatrist is lured into the dark world of the confidence game. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) has a successful practice and has written a best-selling novel, 'Driven.' Still, she is somewhat discontented with her own personal life; there's an emptiness she can neither define nor resolve, and it primes her vulnerability. When a patient, Billy Hahn (Steven Goldstein), confides to her during a session that he owes big money to some gamblers, and that they're going to kill him if he doesn't pay, she decides to intervene on his behalf. This takes her to the `House of Games,' a seedy little dive where she meets Mike (Joe Mantegna), a charismatic con-man who wastes no time before enticing her into his world. Instead of the `twenty-five large' that Billy claimed he owed, Mike shows her his book, and it turns out to be eight hundred dollars. And Mike agrees to wipe the slate clean, if she'll agree to do him one simple favor, which involves a card game he has going on in the back room. In the middle of a big hand, Mike is going to leave the room for a few minutes; while he is gone, her job is to watch for the `tell' of one of the other players. By this time, not only Margaret, but the audience, as well, is hooked. The dialogue, and Mamet's unique style and the precise cadence with which his actors deliver their lines, is mesmerizing. As Mike leads Margaret through his compelling, surreal realm of existence, and introduces her to the intricacies of the con game, we are swept right along with her. From that first memorable encounter, when he demonstrates what a `tell' is and how it works, to the lessons of the `short con,' to the stunning climax of this film, Mamet keeps the con going with an urgency that is relentless. And nothing is what it seems. In the end, Margaret learns some hard lessons about life and human nature, and about herself. She changes; and whether or not it's for the better is open to speculation. Mantegna is absolutely riveting in this film; he lends every nuance possible to a complex character who must be able to lead you willingly into the shadows, and does. Crouse also turns in an outstanding performance here; you feel the rigid, up-tight turmoil roiling beneath that calm, self-assured exterior, and when her experiences with Mike induce the change in her, she makes you feel how deeply it has penetrated. She makes you believe that she is capable of what she does, and makes you understand it, as well. The dynamic supporting cast includes Mike Nussbaum (Joey), Lilia Skala (Dr. Littauer), J.T. Walsh (The Businessman), Ricky Jay (George) and William H. Macy (Sergeant Moran). `House of Games' is the quintessential Mamet; he's written and directed a number of high-caliber plays and films since, and will no doubt grace us with more in the future. But this film will be the one that defines him; and you can go to the dictionary and look it up. You'll find it under `Perfection.' This is one great movie you do not want to miss. I rate this one 10/10.


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