People who rent this thinking it’s going to be a police procedural must sure get annoyed. Mamet’s first film, the indispensable House of Games, established his interest in the confidence game. His second, Things Change, was about the tensions between loyalty to one’s self, one’s friends, and one’s tribe. Both of those themes are present here, plus a new emphasis, on race, that has of course persisted as one of Mamet’s preoccupations.
All three of Mamet’s first movies employ Verfremdungseffekts to such extremes that they risk complete collapse. Here, the gun battles are absurd (Mamet could have saved some money by just putting up a title card saying “Gun Battle”); the dialogue, as is traditional in Mamet, is by turns histrionic and a stuttery mess; and many of the situations seem to be transpiring not in this world but in a world of archetypes and metaphors. I adore it. It occurs to me that it kind of feels like Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy.