THE PRIME GIG
US, 2000, 98 minutes, Colour.
Vince Vaughn, Julia Ormond, Ed Harris, Rory Cochrane, George Wendt, Wallace Shawn, Romany Malco.
Directed by Gregory Mosher.
The Prime Gig is a film about financial fraud. The fraud is presented on a small scale, with a small company and staff involved in phone sales for travel and other shady deals. Than the fraud is presented on a large scale, a previously-jailed financier, with a very plausible manner, and a seductive assistant, recruits staff for investment on a very large scale in a mine – for which he hires a plane to take the staff to visit. But, ultimately, it is fraud.
With its American setting, this is an indictment of criminal financial operations – that have led to financial crises over the decades. On its small-scale, it anticipates the Financial Global Meltdown of 2008.
The film can also be seen in the light of films about sales, especially David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and the smaller scale The Business of Strangers, with Stockard Channing. While Mamet’s play was of the 1980s, both films appeared in the 1990s.
The film offers a good opportunity for Vince Vaughn, early in his career after his impact in Swingers. While he has performed in a number of serious films, he is probably best known for his comedies. Julia Ormond was introduced in Sabrina and has had a mixed career ever since. But Ed Harris has been a constant, find the performances for over 30 years.
The film shows the ambition of a man comfortable in small-scale operations, his ambition being pandered to by an attractive woman and a smart-talking salesman – but he is taken in nonetheless.
Director Gregory Moshe has made as directed for the stage, making few films, including A Life in the Theatre, from the play by David Mamet, with Matthew Broderick and Jack Lemon.
1. The title? A show? Business exploitation? Fraud?
2. An American story, the small company, the phone deals, taking people in, offering more than could be fulfilled? The failure of the firm, cash, the law? The contrast with big companies, the elaborate setups, detailed recruiting, in action, financial turnover, ruthlessness, fraud – even for the employees?
3. The American cities, homes, offices, set up for fraud? The musical score?
4. Penny’s story? In himself, his age, experience, relationships? His phone calls, capacity the selling? The boss and his concern? The other members of the company, the personalities, the failure of the company, concerned about their future?
5. Penny and his relationship with Joel, Joel and his disabilities, depression? Sharing the apartment? Joel and his disappearances? Returns, life away from Penny? His moral stance with Penny?
6. The meeting with Caitlin, her recruiting him? His believing her? Meeting Kelly Grant? His reputation, trustworthiness or not? Discussions, his being persuasive? Penny becoming part of the team, the plan, the investments, the details of the trip and the visit to the mine, the recruits having faith in Kelly Grant? The issues of the bonuses, urging the sellers on? Penny, falling behind, the other succeeding? The pep-talk from Kelly, exercising his power, success on the phone, the importance story of the old lady, the widow and his persuading her to invest? His rewards? The personal relationship with Caitlin, the flirting? His concern about the relationship between Caitlin and Kelly? The sexual affair? His confiding in her, her confiding in him, support?
7. His waking up, Caitlin gone, the fact that he was warned, going to the centre, its being dismantled? Kelly and Caitlin disappearing?
8. Caitlin, her manner, seductive, seducing the audience as well as Penny? With Kelly, her continued work on the floor, supervision and support, the sexual relationship? Her words to the sleeping Penny and her leaving?
9. Kelly Grant, the background of his imprisonment, money deals? A plausible character, his plan, taking the people to the site? Disarming? Relationship with Caitlin, permissive – and in retrospect urging her to have the relationship for Penny’s trust? Disappearing?
10. The first crew, their work, small company, their life, interactions, the boss, his sense of failure?
11. The second group, personalities, skills, success, competitiveness?
12. The sudden ending? The audience unsettled? Thinking about what they had seen and experienced? The nature of financial fraud? The individuals involved? Responsibility and culpability?