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The Prime Gig (February 22/02)

Let's face it - Glengarry Glen Ross set the bar real high for stories about conmen and swindlers. Because it was so effective and brilliantly acted, all other movies dealing with this subject have their work cut out for them. Some succeed mildly (Boiler Room), while others fail completely (The Prime Gig).

Vince Vaughn stars as Penny (short for Pendleton), an experienced conman who's used to being at the top of his game. When his current scam folds, though, he's out of a job - but not for long. Enter Kelly (Ed Harris), a top scam artist that's just done a stint in prison. He's looking for some experienced flimflam men and women, and settles on Penny as one of them. Everything seems all well and good until Penny falls for Kelly's assistant and former lover (Julia Ormond).

The Prime Gig is a mishmash of so many clichés that are standard to this genre which makes it impossible to become involved in the film. And unlike something like Glengarry Glen Ross, there's absolutely no tension. There's nothing at stake for Vaughn's character; he was successful before Kelly came along and he likely would have been successful without him. He's got nothing on the line, so there's really no reason to care about whether or not he walks away with a large payday.

Fortunately, the acting is stellar all around. As Penny, Vaughn delivers another great performance - this time playing a man that thinks he knows everything there is to know. He's got a real presence, and his persona is perfectly suited for this cocky character that winds up taken down a few notches. And of course, Ed Harris is compelling as always. We don't find out his true motives until the end of the picture, so Harris is required to create an enigmatic presence. Finally, there's Julia Ormond. She was supposed to be the Next Big Thing after her appearance opposite Harrison Ford in Sabrina, but that never quite happened. But nevertheless, she proves that she's got the talent to be a big star - she just needs a better agent, clearly.

The Prime Gig may be an effective thriller…if you've never seen one before.

out of