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CONFIDENCE(director/writer: James Foley; screenwriter: Doug Jung; cinematographer: Juan Ruiz Anchia; editor: Stuart Levy; music: Christophe Beck; cast: Edward Burns (Jake Vig), Lily (Rachel Weisz), Andy Garcia (Gunther Butan), Dustin Hoffman (King), Paul Giamatti (Gordo), Brian Van Holt (Miles), Franky G. (Lupus), Luis Guzmán (Manzano), Donal Logue (Whitworth), Morris Chestnut (Travis), Robert Forster (Morgan Price); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Michael Burns, Marc Butan, Michael Ohoven, Michael Paseornek; Lions Gate Films; 2002)
“Confidence is too familiar a grifter flick to take me for a sucker.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Confidence is too familiar a grifter flick to take me for a sucker. Its questionable amoral ethics would have you believe that it’s cool for the greedy lowlife grifters to rip-off a bank and other lowlife operators. Confidence should follow its own advice and realize style alone is not enough. The crime boss mentions to the hero grifter “Sometimes style will get you killed.”

At its peak moments it barely hits mediocrity. To make matters worse, Edward Burns narrates and his whiny voiceover quickly wore on my nerves. It’s bad enough that the pretty boy Burns is the lead star and gives his usual one-note emotional acting job, but to have him look into the camera and show off that he’s a smart con man throughout was just too much for me (His stiff acting reminds me of President Bush trying to act presidential). The story relies on stock characters playing marks, shills, ropes, femme fatales, crime bosses and insiders. There are double-crosses, plot twists, crooked cops, and big money temptations. James Foley’s direction was rote, the all-star ensemble cast uniformly turned in an uninspired performance, and the dialogue lacked wit. Doug Jung’s slight but workmanlike generic script was more annoying than interesting. The film’s theme of “Trust no one”, seemed to hardly matter.

Burns is Jake Vig, the brazen leader of a traveling gang of con artists, the shill is Miles (Van Holt) and the insider is Gordo (Giamatti), who are working their scams in Los Angeles. The film opens as Jake is down on his knees and there’s a gunman standing over him (Chestnut) threatening to shoot, but holds off because he wants to hear Jake’s tale. A flashback takes us back to three weeks ago to see how Jake got into this pickle. A mark who is an accountant for a racketeer is fleeced out of $150,000 by Jake’s crew, as they pretend their insider is murdered. The gang is helped by two corrupt LAPD officers -Whitworth (Donal Logue) and Manzano (Luis Guzman). The money stolen belongs to a small-time porno racketeer and pervert, the unkempt King (Dustin Hoffman). King has already killed the accountant and one of the gang’s shills. So Jake meets with the King to work out a deal to pay him back.

The King orders Jake to scam Morgan Price (Forster), a wealthy banker with mob connections. Jake arranges for a bank scam on the untouchable mark for $5 million and recruits Lily (Rachel Weisz) because he likes the way she lifts wallets in a bar. The King’s henchman, Lupus (Franky G.), joins the crew to keep an eye on them, despite objections.

The intricate scheme involves corporate loans, creative bookkeeping, wire transfers, insider help and off-shore accounts. To complicate matters further there’s a relentless federal special agent Gunther Butan (Andy Garcia), who has tailed Jake across the country and is obsessed with catching him in the middle of a scam. There’s also a member of the gang who pulls a double-cross.

Nothing much happens, but the usual genre type of surprises and attempts to show off the clever script. If you want my two cents, I wasn’t convinced these con artists could have stolen money from a blind man. Their tough guy lingo seemed misplaced. Lines throughout such as “the skirt has a point,” failed to amuse. Nothing seemed to work except the scam pulled off to get this film released across the country to a wide audience.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”