The Prime Gig

Dir: Gregory Mosher
Star: Vince Vaughn, Julia Ormond, Ed Harris, Rory Cochrane

This feels like half a movie; it spends much of its last hour setting up a moment of revelation that could, and perhaps should, be the jumping off point for a true climax. It's a good revelation, but only whets the appetite for resolution superior to the one offered, where the film does little more than peter out. Vaughn plays Penny, a man adept at phone swindles, whose current job has just evaporated. He links up with legendary conman Kelly Grant (Harris) and his sidekick Caitlin (Ormond) for a new job selling shares in an Arizona goldmine. It's convincing - but is it genuine? Who, exactly, is being scammed? And why is Caitlin sniffing around our hero?

You've probably guessed it's a little like Boiler Room, though especially in an opening where we meet the losers who are Penny's current co-workers, Glengarry Glen Ross is a better comparison [Mosher has done a lot of stage work with Mamet]. It's immediately clear Penny's destined for higher things, but it's a shame to lose such characters; I'd have brought them back after the revelation, to aid him. Similarly, his handicapped friend seems to be there to show Penny's humanity, but is rapidly discarded when inconvenient. There are odd moments of magic, such as Penny talking to an old lady, where he suddenly is actually with her. However, the potential here is mostly untapped, despite Vaughn's fine performance, providing a genuine sense of moral depth.

October 2004

The Great Gig in the Sky
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