Political thriller retains its slimy appeal in the US

First look: House of Cards
Shanghai night field

Depending on your age, you might remember Ian Richardson in the original House of Cards playing Francis Urquhart, a slimy British politician who redefined television’s portrayal of politicians. That is, it brought slimy truth to the fore and exposed politics for the shallow and inhuman house of cards it is.

The thought of taking something so definitive and fashioning an American remake might be enough to turn your hair white. It verges on sacrilege, particularly when you consider the American television market’s imperfect record.

But the American version of House of Cards, produced by Sony for on-demand TV service Netflix, is complex enough to earn a second glance. And once you’ve seen one riveting, sickening and illuminating episode, you’ll likely stay the course.

In a sense, Australian audiences have the toughest call here. As with shows such as The Office, we have the advantage of having seen the original before the copy. And the original House of Cards was, and is, a sight to behold. Richardson’s performance is exquisite, the observations in the writing devastating.

Kevin Spacey, with smooth charm, is strangely likeable in a way Richardson was not. And his character, Frank Underwood, is a far more modern politician, alternately captivating and disgusting.

House of Cards is Shakespeare, retold and laced with the bard at his political best. Spacey is moments out of his thrilling Richard III, and that heightened sense of stage play is felt loud and hard here.

He talks to the camera like an actor glancing at the audience, while Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood circles her husband with the sultry, luxuriant thrill of Lady Macbeth.

Much kudos should go to the director, David Fincher. This is a big drama told in small, sharp notes, and its velvet texture belies the taut, muscular motion of the story.

House of Cards launched in the US on February 1. It has not yet been sold to an Australian broadcaster.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Published in: 杭州夜网

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