Film Review: “House of Cards” (Netflix- 2013 – 2014)

“House of Cards” was an astonishing risk for film streaming outfit “Netflix”, who six months earlier was in deep financial trouble, teetering on the brink. Netflix literally pushed the few chips they had to the center of the table and bet the farm on a hastily accumulated political drama starring a very expensive Kevin Spacey and relatively overlooked Robin Wright. A new concept of viewing, the entire season out in one big chunk for series gluttons. They succeeded beyond their expectations.

Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) schemes way through convoluted shenanigans as the (very) Southern Democratic Senate majority whip out to get revenge on a new administration that promised him a cabinet position, then reneges. His reptilian wife Claire (Robin Wright) aids and abets from a different perspective. House of Cards portrays the protocol of political power differently than “The West Wing”. The Byzantine plots are a much more complex chess game in which progress is planned five moves ahead and the baroque parliamentary gerrymandering is fierce to the point of brutality. Francis chillingly mentions to one of the characters: “Generosity is its own form of power.” Remember that the next time someone does you a favor.”

Underwood and his wife share a spooky relationship in which much of their communication is unspoken, but between the two of them, they relentlessly decide the fates of others with Machiavellian cunning. Their interaction with victims is meticulously crafted to gently facilitate their self-destruction. Those investigative journalists ferreting out the couple’s guilt fall into artful traps that brutally assure their own destruction. The result is a masterpiece of intrigue with a minimum of suspense. The viewer always knows where the path leads, and the series takes its time getting there, wringing out the intricate details along the way.

Kevin Spacey pauses along the way to step out of character and wink at the camera, offering up snarky quips: “I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood”.

“House of Cards is an unexpectedly brilliant masterpiece that probably single handedly pulled Netflix out of receivership. Spacey’s delivery of menacing charisma is the freshest character on TV. Wife Clare’s emotional link marinated with ruthlessness augment the series’ magnetism. The other characters are perfectly placed.

Best part: Frank’s to-the-camera quips: It’s so “Refreshing to work with someone who’ll throw a saddle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth”.

Inferior part: If you choose to absorb this series, you MUST begin with Chapter 1 of Season 1. The story line is entirely too complex to pick it up in the middle. At the end of Season 2 there are now 26 one-hour chapters so this will be a long haul.

I give it 4 of 5 sneers. Highly recommended if you have the time and attention capability.

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