Day: April 19, 2017

Things Change – tape 1508

On this tape, David Mamet’s Things Change.

Don Ameche plays the poor owner of a shoe-shine stand who is summoned to the house of a gangster, and asked to confess to a murder committed by someone he resembles. He reluctantly agrees.

Mamet favourite Ricky Jay plays the mobster’s right hand man, delivering the expositional dialogue in the way he was born to.

Joe Mantegna works for the mobster, and is on probation. He’s ordered to stick with Ameche over the weekend while the evidence for his ‘guilt’ is prepared. He has to coach him on the details of the murder so his testimony will be convincing to the police.

After some coaching, Mantegna wants to give Ameche a nice time before he goes to prison, so they fly to Lake Tahoe. At the airport, he bumps into another Mamet mainstay William H Macy, a limo driver also affiliated to the mob. Macy jokes with him about being on probation, which annoys Mantegna, so Mantegna pretends he’s on an important job, looking after an important person, and Macy just assumes that Ameche must be an important mobster.

He whisks them to the hotel, where manager JT Walsh, who clearly knows who Macy represents, immediately ushers them up to a huge suite, where they are offered absolutely every indulgence.

Things get a bit tense when Mantegna asks the casino operator if he could arrange for Ameche to win a little, so they open a table that guarantees that number 12 wins, and Mantegna tells him to put a few dollars on it. But then Ameche puts the $1000 that the casino had lent on credit on the same number, winning $35K, and he wants to take the money and buy a car. Mantegna persuades him to bet the money elsewhere, so he bets it on a wheel of fortune, which almost pays out, but doesn’t.

The next day, Ameche is invited to lunch with another local mobster, Robert Prosky. Again, things get tense when Prosky asks for some names of Ameche’s ‘family’ but once again, because all these people speak only in subtext and innuendo, Ameche styles it out and gets a big hug.

But this new found friendship turns dangerous. when Prosky invites him to stay for the evening, when he’s meeting some friends, who turn out to be the Chicago mobsters who set up Ameche at the start.

I liked this. I don’t like movies about gangsters as a rule, but this one plays with the tropes of the genre a bit. At its heart it’s a bittersweet comedy, but it’s serious enough that you never forget the potential violence bubbling under the surface, even though there’s only a single act of violence in the entire movie.

After the movie, recording continues with part of a documentary called Red Empire, looking a post-war developments in the Soviet Union. Recording stops during this programme.

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