Nashe decides to bankroll Pozzi in a poker game with two rich eccentrics (played dauntingly enough by Charles Durning and Joel Grey). Pozzi is convinced the men will be an easy take but as fate would have it, he not only loses Nashe's last ten grand and beloved BMW, but with Nashe's help, they get themselves ten thousand dollars in debt to the two wealthy men. One of the players has the idea of letting them pay off the debt by building a wall monument out of 10,000 stones imported from a castle in Europe. Pozzi is outraged but cannot bring himself to leave Nashe, who is agreeable to working off the debt. They'll live in a trailer in the meadow for several weeks while working on the monument. Their days of labor, supervised by Calvin (M. Emmet Walsh) and evening discussions are interesting enough.
I have the feeling the movie would have been more enjoyable if I'd read the novel and couldn't help but imagine how the book was worded as I watched the movie a second time. It is one of those films I can watch again and again. I'm still trying to figure out the lessons besides the obvious: gambles, playing out of your league, getting in over your head and that there's no such thing as a "sure thing".
Pozzi and Nashe may have different world views but they don't clash, they actually compliment each other rather nicely. I thought it profound when Pozzi blames Nashe for breaking his winning streak by wandering off during the fabled game and into the "City of the World" room. There Nashe swipes a tiny replica of their antagonists. Pozzi asserts that Nashe broke the streak by violating the Universe in some way, destroying the harmony they had enjoyed while winning. Nashe thinks this absurd and that Pozzi is giving power to a little piece of wood and sets it on fire to prove his point. This "City of the World" room is toy land built by one of the rich poker player's (Joel Grey's Stone). It's his view of what was and what should be. Disturbingly enough, it contains prisoners happily paying for their crimes. It's a tool for foreshadowing some events and also portrays the wealthy eccentric's power over their pawns. And though the "City of the World" is Stone's baby, one gets the feeling that Charles Durning's Flower character was the real ruler of their kingdom.
The movie only features about ten actors, making it clean and simple fare. James Spader does a superb job of making a creepy, little hustler likable. He is helped by Mandy Patinkin's soothing performance of a damaged but composed soul who's sympathy for Pozzi is contagious.
Beneath Nashe's stoicism his emotions are as palpable as Pozzi's outward agitation. A soft-spoken and strangely plotted story, it's quite a rare gem.