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Review: Netflix's 'House of Cards' Is Classy, Campy and Diabolically Watchable (TRAILER)

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood February 1, 2013 at 12:46PM

“Nobody’s a boy scout. Not even boy scouts,” drawls Kevin Spacey’s Francis “Frank” Underwood. As the mastermind congressman suggests, all players in Netflix’s “House of Cards” have sharp teeth and like the taste of blood. The new series, which is based on the original BBC production, is executive produced and helmed in part by David Fincher, and has the cool grey-gold look and streamlined efficiency of the director’s work.
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Fincher is a director now synonymous with the A-level budgets he commands, yet the projects he chooses often have B-movie pulpiness at the heart. On more than one occasion his films have revolved around serial killers (“Se7en,” “Zodiac” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), a sub-genre with a natural tendency away from traditional prestige and toward down-and-dirty exploitation. Talky political dramas don’t often have this trapping, which is what makes “House of Cards” refreshing. It’s a well-oiled, classy production with an over-the-top soul.

In full disclosure, I was only able to preview the series’ first two episodes, which is where Fincher’s direction begins and ends. (And, in the spirit of said disclosure, I’m a big fan of Fincher.) Whether the show will keep up its slickly humming suspense and diabolical dialogue--which approaches cheesiness without succumbing to it--remains to be seen. (Some folks may be consuming the series all in one go; NYT analysis of binge-watching here; LAT here.)

Included in the list of directors to take over helming duties are Joel Schumacher, Carl Franklin and Allen Coulter. They have between them on their resumés, among other things, “The Lost Boys,” “Devil in a Blue Dress” and episodes of “The Sopranos,” so the class-camp balance may continue to be struck. Aside from Spacey, Wright, Stoll and Mara all turn in solid performances, in tune with the carnivorous tone of the show. I’m rooting for this house of cards to stand its ground.

All 13 episodes of "House of Cards" are available for streaming starting February 1 on Netflix (and the first episode is streaming for free here). Find out more about the series' high production budget and confirmed second season, as well as Netflix's commitment to the content business, here.

This article is related to: Television, TV Reviews, Netflix, David Fincher, David Fincher, Kevin Spacey


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.