The AV Club examines Kevin Spacey’s performance on House of Cards:
Like Olivier’s Richard—and like Francis Urquhart, the British politician played by Ian Richardson in the original BBC miniseries House Of Cards—Frank often turns to the camera to soliloquize and share his strategies, and the pitch-dark view of the world behind them, with the audience. In Spacey’s House Of Cards, these little lectures are helpful if you’re trying to keep track of what’s supposed to be going on, but Spacey doesn’t use them to come on to the audience or win anyone over. In terms of fleshing out his character and forging a direct relationship with the viewer, he might as well be reading his stage directions out loud. He’s pasty looking and dead-eyed, and if he’s reminiscent of any speech from Shakespeare, it’s not from Richard III, but Puck’s line, “What fools these mortals be,” spoken in a spirit of weary resignation. He’s barely recognizable as the actor who took a brief, recurrent role on a network crime drama and turned it into a non-stop fireworks display, and not just because that was 26 years ago. Underwood is different from the kinds of bad guys Kevin Spacey used to play, because he takes no pleasure in being the smartest guy in the story; he comes across as smug and self-satisfied, but also a little irritated at how easy most people are to fool. But how much of that is the character, and how much of it is the actor himself?