Monday 18 December 2017

Play your cards right and catch stunning Spacey


Being old enough to remember the original House of Cards, I didn't at first expect much of the American reboot.

In the 1980s original, Ian Richardson was compelling and convincing as slimy Francis Urquhart, a politician on the up in Westminster, largely because of his cunning and the fact that he knew where all the bodies were buried.

The only thorn in his side was nosey political reporter Mattie Storin (Susannah Harker) - and he sorted her out by flinging her off a roof. A bit harsh perhaps.

Netflix reprised the idea for its subscription service in 2013, with the one guarantee that this wasn't going to be a tired remake: having Kevin Spacey in the lead role. From the BBC version we're on a bigger stage, as Spacey plays Frank Underwood, a Democrat from South Caroline and House majority whip.

He's got it all - glamorous wife, a decent position in the heart of Beltway power, cunning and overriding ambition.

But he wants more - the top job as POTUS - and a nice seat in the Oval Office. It's not about principles, it's not even about ideas, it's all about himself. In the opening series, he's passed over for another step up the greasy ladder - as Secretary of State - so kicks off his bid to get to the top by fair means or foul (mostly foul).

His trophy wife Claire (Robin Wright) is a cool-headed blonde with ambition. On the surface she's a do-gooder with a non-government environmental body - in reality she's Frank in a dress, utterly ruthless and power-hungry.

Just like me, a lot of the people who enjoyed the original, love this too. Judging by the box-set sales, a lot of people haven't caught this on Netflix, so it's handy to have Season I and II to play on their DVD (oh how retro).

And Season I is a cracker, from Frank playing young Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), a rising reporter who has her uses (eventually in the bedroom too). It's a rollercoaster ride of muddying the opposition in your own party, with booze, hookers and even murder.

By the end, he's risen up the ranks to vice president.

I hated the West Wing, with its nice-guy Democrats who just wanted to cuddle the world over their lattes and wheatgrass drinks. This might, or might not, be closer to the truth, but it's a hell of a lot more entertaining.

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