The Magician (1993)

“He’s being a bit American.”

The Magician is the name of a master forger responsible for manufacturing the flood of counterfeit money that appeared in Britain in the 80s at around the same time an IRA bombing campaign occurred. This made-for-British television film is based on the true story.

Ambitious American businessman David Katz (Jay Acovone) is approached for a deal to buy counterfeit money. Katz goes to the police and he’s soon swept up in the investigation. With young police detective George Byrne (Clive Owen), Katz is supposed to lure the counterfeiters into a trap. It should be fairly simple–but dangerous, and when George tries to replace the civilian Katz with a policemen, Katz insists on staying involved. But Katz keeps increasing the stakes, and soon he’s bargaining to buy millions of the fake notes….

Katz is an interesting character. He’s in London with his wife and only child, and there are hints that this is a last ditch attempt to save his marriage and his career. While his wife, Frances (Jennifer Calvert) is kept in the dark about the scheme, she knows something is afoot. She’s very worried about her husband, his growing grandiosity and his break with reality. In the meantime, Katz is the ultimate con man–talking tough with the counterfeiters, and convincing everyone that he’s a master criminal. While he acts a part, the scenario unleashes a dangerous alter ego, and with the IRA on the tail of the counterfeiters, it’s anyone’s guess how this deal will conclude.

Soon it’s not clear who is really conning whom, and if you’ve enjoyed films such as The Spanish Prisoner then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy The Magician. The film’s plot is about average television quality–a little rough in spots, and the viewer needs to pay close attention in order to catch all the twists and turns–and even then there are some loose ends left at the conclusion.

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