Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

July 20, 2013 at 11:22 am | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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◊ ½

I saw this documentary primarily because I was surprised to learn that a guy I knew primarily as a character actor was actually more famous for being a magician and a card sharp.  Ricky Jay has been in movies such as “The Spanish Prisoner,” “Boogie Nights,” “Mystery Men” and “Magnolia” and on TV as a recurring or guest character on a dozen series, including one of my favorites, “Deadwood.”  So, I was curious to learn about Jay’s (born Richard Jay Potash) other life, including alleged criminal behaviors and connects with con men and other seedy characters.  However, we got none of that.  What we got, instead, was a mildly interesting introduction to various masters of sleight-of-hand from the past 100 years who have influenced Jay’s work.  The film has plenty of clips of Jay and these masters doing various card tricks, most of which are pretty impressive.  However, the best tricks are all described rather than shown, including one that did leave me boggling, “how could he has possibly pulled that off.”  It would have been nice to see these tricks.  However, Jay is (apparently) notoriously guarded, both about his tricks and his life, in general.  His entire disclosure about his parents is summed up in little more than the sentence, “suffice it to say, they didn’t get me.”  He shares almost nothing about his personal life and nothing about his fears, hopes, etc.  As such, the film is only fun to the degree that you do find yourself laughing out loud at some of the tricks.  It never illuminates and I left knowing nothing more about Ricky Jay, the person, than I did going in.   I’m not sure I could encourage you to spend any money on it but, if it comes on TV sometime and you’re bored, it’s worth a look.  It happens to be one of those shows you can come in and out off and have essentially missed nothing.   However, at dinner after the film, I was sitting next to a table of two couples who had just seen the movie; they laughed and spoke animatedly about the astounding tricks we had seen or heard about.  They clearly had a good time and that’s saying something.

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