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Film / Things Change

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Things Change is a 1988 American film directed by David Mamet and co-written by Mamet and Shel Silverstein. It stars Don Ameche, as a simple cobbler who has volunteered to take the fall for a mob murder, and Joe Mantegna, as the low-level gangster assigned to babysit him before the trial. Together they take a trip to Lake Tahoe as a last hurrah and get into a variety of adventures when the cobbler is mistaken for a powerful mob boss.

This film provides examples of:

  • 555: The showgirls leave a number beginning with "KL5."
  • Bait-and-Switch: After Gino makes a phone call to Joseph Vincent, the next scene shows Gino seated in the courtroom with the mafiosi who made the deal with him in the audience. We think at at first that the most his phone call accomplished was forcing Mr. Green to honor his deal instead of murdering Gino, and that Gino is now destined to spend the rest of his life in prison. Instead, we find out that Vincent's influence spared Gino and forced Jerry's boss to take the fall and serve a 20 to life sentence.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gino is back to where he started as a poor and humble shoe-shiner. Jerry is expelled from the mafia and is now also destined for a life of poverty as Gino's assistant. However, they both escaped with their lives, they have one another's friendship, and for Jerry, there's honest (even if low-paying and unglamorous) work.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Vincenzo gives Gino a quarter, telling him that if he ever needs anything to give him a call. When things look their darkest, Gino announces that he's going to make a phone call.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film opens on a man taking a violin off a wall and playing it, then taking it over to a cash register to purchase. The camera then wanders over to two gangsters watching across the street. Then we focus on the main character.
  • Fixing the Game: Jerry convinces the casino to rig a roulette game so that Gino can get the experience of winning, promising to pay back whatever Gino wins. Gino does indeed win, then neglects to take his winnings away, accidentally betting all his winnings on the same fixed number to win a huge jackpot.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: After Gino wins a huge jackpot on a rigged game, Jerry tries to talk him into giving the money back, since it wouldn't be polite to take the money of their guests. Instead, Gino puts the money on a longshot bet on the no-limit Big Wheel. If he wins, he'll bankrupt the casino, but he misses by one number. When the wheel girl says she's sorry, Gino shrugs and says, "Things change."
  • Humble Goal: Gino agrees to spend years in prison, at a fairly advanced age, so that he can buy a fishing boat when he gets out of prison. Jerry is surprised that this is all Gino wants in return for Taking the Heat.
  • Karma Houdini: Mr. Green and the other gangsters in his circle (including the actual murderer for whom Gino was supposed to take the fall) all get away with their crimes. The only one to face prison time is the mid-level gangster who supervises Jerry.
  • The Mafia: Gino is an Italian immigrant who has made a deal with the Mafia, so Jerry, an American mobster, is taking care of Gino until he can deliver.
  • Mafia Princess: Mr. Green's girlfriend. She's so stuck up due to her connections to wealth and power that she refuses to even acknowledge a humble man like Gino.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Jerry tells a mob pal that Gino is "the guy behind the guy... behind the guy." Gino's quiet dignity makes the fib so believable that he's instantly treated like mob royalty.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Don Ameche got top (left) billing, but appears on the right side of the poster.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Not in the fighter sense, but in the mob power sense. Gino carries himself with a quiet dignity, which leads several mafiosi to assume that he's a powerful Don.
  • Mistaken for Profound: Gino's simple musings about the right way to shine shoes and his comments about his family are taken for metaphors about how to properly run an organized crime racket by Joseph Vincent and by the casino staff.
  • Mood Whiplash: Although the scenes where Gino is mistaken for a powerful mob boss are funny, there's always a dark undercurrent due to the fact that both he and Jerry would probably be killed if the truth were revealed.
  • Nice Guy: Jerry is a nice guy, especially for a mobster. As you might expect, he's a particularly low-ranking mobster.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • While Jerry is partly motivated by boredom, he also genuinely wants to show Gino a good time, but goes behind the mob's back to do so, which ultimately lands him in trouble. In the end, he's banished from the mob to live with Gino as a humble cobbler.
    • Also with Gino. His sense of honor stops him from backing out of his agreement and making a run for it as Jerry urges him to do. What he doesn't realize is that the mafiosi have absolutely no interest in keeping their side of the bargain.
  • The Quiet One: Gino is a quiet and dignified man, which makes him believable as a man of power.
  • Source Music: The opening credits soundtrack turns out to be some random guy trying out mandolins in a music shop. He passes by two mobsters who actually matter, and the plot begins.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In the murder trial, the mid-level mobster who takes the fall gets 20 years to life rather than the 3-5 years that the mafia promised to Gino. Even if the gangsters hadn't planned to back out on their promise and murder Gino instead from the get-go, they really were preying on Gino's naivete by claiming that he could expect to serve only 3 years for first-degree murder.
  • Taking the Heat: Gino is hired to take the heat for a mob murder in exchange for a payday when he gets out of prison. In the end Gino has made a new friend in the mob who has someone take the heat for Gino.
  • Title Drop: Twice. Once by Gino, brushing off losing a bunch of money at the casino. The second title drop is much more sinister.