'House of Cards' review: Netflix's new Kevin Spacey drama is a must-view for Netflix subscribers

One of the hottest new dramas of the season isn't on your television - it's wherever your closest Internet connection happens to be.

Netflix's "House of Cards" has generated considerable buzz because of its risk-taking: the reported $50 million price tag to produce a single season; the streaming entertainment service's push for original programming; and the fact that all 13 episodes can be watched in one gluttonous sitting.

But however you decide to watch it - serialized, like your appointment viewing TV shows, or as one long movie - critics are calling "House of Cards" a must-view for Netflix subscribers.

A remake of a British series, "House of Cards" is set in the treacherous world of Washington, D.C., politics, and has major pedigree. Kevin Spacey stars as House Majority Whip Francis Underwood, who has revenge on his mind after losing out on a near-certain Secretary of State title, and Robin Wright stars as his wife, Claire. David Fincher served as director for the first two episodes.

It may not be as "out-of-the-box astonishing" as landmark programming like AMC's "Mad Men" or HBO's "Sopranos," but Netflix's "House of Cards" is nonetheless a "brassy, confident" new drama, Time's James Poniewozik says. "House of Cards" arrives "polished (and showing every dime of its reported $100 million budget on the screen). It's good reason at least to use your Netflix subscription, if not to rush out and get one."

USA Today praised it as not only beautiful to watch but funny, too, with Spacey's role a perfect fit.

"The humor in 'Cards' --- and it is mordantly amusing --- stems from the way Underwood maneuvers people into thinking his ideas are theirs," USA Today's Robert Bianco says in his review. "Pondering from a distance, you may wonder how Underwood could have amassed so much power without anyone learning to be wary of him, but those objections seldom matter when Spacey is on screen. At those moments, you truly believe he could get anyone to do anything --- anyone except his wife, which is a testament to the steely strength of Wright's performance."

After watching the first two episodes, which were released early to critics, the Los Angeles Times predicted that "if the rest of the series is as good ... 'House of Cards' will in all probability become the first nontelevised television show to receive an Emmy nomination, or four."

The A.V. Club's appreciation was more muted, as Todd VanDerWerff found the premise and the treatment of it formulaic. "[T]his still feels like a very basic, by the numbers approach to this kind of story," VanDerWerff writes. "We've seen this all dozens of times before, and 'House Of Cards' has yet to distinguish itself in ways that don't involve Spacey."

That said, it's also "compulsively watchable." Thanks to its director and some of its stars, "there's enough here to entertain."


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