This is probably how I’m going to spend my weekend, even though I’ll also be headed to the Santa Barbara International Film Fest. The newly minted series is available, all episodes, on Netflix starting today. I will be writing up my thoughts on the wonderfully wicked series a bit later. EW’s Ken Tucker:
House of Cards finds Kevin Spacey being waspish, supercilious, and meanly clever — in other words, just the way we like him, and the way he’s been most effective in movies such asSwimming with Sharks, L.A. Confidential, The Usual Suspects, and (in a glorious early-career TV role) as Mel Profitt in Wiseguy. In House of Cards, he’s House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, passed over for Secretary of State and out for payback.
Working with director David Fincher, Spacey pulls off — triumphs at — the series’ riskiest stylistic tic: At regular points in the action, Spacey’s Frank pauses to turn to the camera and address us directly. He may be offering sly commentary on what we are about to or have just seen; he may provide a tart judgment on the state of politics. The gesture could have been hopelessly showy or rapidly tiresome; instead, it seems to energize scenes that are already pretty damn zippy.
Fincher’s stamp is all over this production, the way (as he did in feature films such as Zodiac, Fight Club, and Seven) his camera conveys a sense of firm gravity even as it glides smoothly across a scene, an all-seeing, all-knowing instrument of knowledge and drama.
They already face an overcrowded field of competitors for the scripted-programming audience, with new entrants seeming to arrive on a daily basis. And now comes a well-funded challenge from Netflix, jumping into the fray with House of Cards — and landing right near the top.
Indeed, if the rest of the series is as good as the two episodes released early for review (the fact that Netflix made only the episodes directed by Fincher available is slightly worrisome), “House of Cards” will in all probability become the first nontelevised television show to receive an Emmy nomination, or four.
With a sweet ‘n’ deadly Southern accent he may have been saving for Just Such an Occasion, Spacey plays Francis (Frank) Underwood, a longtime congressman and the current House majority whip who, having just helped put the new president-elect in office, is celebrating his certain nomination for secretary of State.
We meet Frank moments before the victory gala, when a neighbor’s dog is hit by a car. Dispatching his bodyguard to fetch the owners, Frank hurries over to the suffering animal. Addressing the camera with aggressive charm that will become his hallmark, he explains that only a few people in this world are truly willing to do what needs to be done.
Then he kills the dog.