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CONFIDENCE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Paul Giamatti, Donal Logue, Luis Guzman, Brian Van Holt, Franky G, Robert Forster, Leland Orser, Morris Chestnut, Dustin Hoffman
Director: James Foley
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2003

“Playing the big con is like putting on a play. A play where everyone knows their part, except the mark.”

Film ***1/2

The art of the con has never felt more seductive than in James Foley’s ultra cool Confidence. Foley, as some may recall, directed the brilliant Glengarry Glen Ross more than a decade ago, and this is his best film since then. It succeeds in every aspect of a contemporary film noir, with an A list cast to back it up. The story is perfect for this type film, as it is all about the process of one con after another to the point where you have no idea when a con is actually in play. Needless to say, nothing is what it seems.

Edward Burns leads a spectacular cast as Jake Vig, a professional mover and shaker who, along with his crew, moves from city to city to do only one thing, pull off the most elaborate cons one could only imagine in a New York minute, which happens to be Jake’s primary talent. Jake’s crew consists of the constantly paranoid Gordo (Paul Giamatti), the overly self-confident Miles (Brian Van Holt), and Big Al (Louis Lombardi). He also manages to have two corrupt cops (Donal Logue and Luis Guzman) in his pocket.

In the aftermath of a recent score, one of Jake’s cohorts is murdered. The hit was ordered no doubt by the crime boss that Jake and his boys ripped off. This particular boss, simply named King (Dustin Hoffman), is not one to mess around with, but Jake orchestrates a gutsy move; confront the angry kingpin with a proposition and go in together on a much complicated con which will generate restitution for King, as well as provide a little something extra on the side for Jake’s crew.

Although Jake is clearly calling the shots, King instructs two conditions; he will get to select the mark and he will administer right hand henchman Lupus (Franky G) to supervise. These terms don’t seem to bother Jake too much, whose team is upgraded by one when he comes across the sultry Lily (Rachel Weisz), who carries traits that could easily match Jake’s, making her quite suitable to join the crew. The plan is to go after a corrupt corporate attorney (Robert Forster), and steal away 5 million in cash.

The plan seems as flawless as anything conjured up by Jake’s unique thinking process. However, it doesn’t help Jake that his maneuvering has attracted the attention of federal agent Butan (Andy Garcia), who has been tracking the grifter from city to city. Butan, as it seems, is organizing a con of his own, which will be to nab Jake with the help of the two informant cops, whom the fed inevitably bribes.

One of the many pleasures of Confidence is the joy of watching the actors on the screen. Edward Burns, both a noted actor and a filmmaker, shines in his most superb acting job to date. As Jake, Burns is endlessly convincing to the point that he can make you believe anything with a simple facial expression. Jake also serves as the narrator of the story, which is told in a marvelous flashback style. As Jake is held at gunpoint by a hit man (Morris Chestnut), he is forced to reveal the facts leading up to the present. Needless to say, Confidence has a lot of fun with its narrative style.

As for Dustin Hoffman, this is utter proof of how good he can steal a movie even in a bit supporting role. Hoffman, creating a character that is simultaneously funny and scary. King is a psychopathic mob boss with a serious case of A.D.H.D. To give an example, when Jake is trying to explain something important, King can’t help but stare at Lily, who’s standing right at Jake’s side. It’s a remarkable and original character, as King illustrates that the only thing scarier than an insane criminal, is one who you might have to tell things to more than once. Here’s hoping Hoffman is remembered next year at Oscar time.

Confidence is one of those rare cases where the perfect ingredients suggest nothing could go wrong at all. When you have all the elements in check, like a pro director, a witty script, and a game cast, the title says it all.

Video ****

First off, let me exclaim that I find this to be the best looking disc to date from the people at Lions Gate, who’ve managed to exceed the quality of their stellar presentation of House of 1000 Corpses. The movie is a triumph of pure ultra-slick style, as in the tradition of film noir, and the anamorphic presentation does nothing short of engage the senses with its handling of the striking and flashy picture. Image clarity is at a hundred percent, and the colors are simply astounding, particularly that of red and green which are used frequently. Dare I say, big time high marks!

Audio ***1/2

Terrific marks all the way here, as well. The 5.1 mix really kicked in and surprise me, since I wasn’t really expecting much aural usage on this film. As I’ve noticed with stylish films of a similar nature, such as Ocean’s Eleven, sound is a key factor. Lions Gate makes grand use of this track, delivering the goods in areas of dialogue, set pieces, and most especially background music, including some killer jazzed up techno beats, for starters. Truly, one of the better surprises of the year, audio-wise.

Features ****

Lions Gate pulls no cons in this area. Looking forward to this title, I had never received any advance word on the extras, so I had no idea what to expect. To begin with, there are three commentary tracks; one with director James Foley, one with screenwriter Doug Jung, and one with stars Edward Burns and Rachel Weisz. Also included are several deleted scenes, a soundtrack presentation featuring two music videos for songs from the soundtrack, and an Anatomy of a Scene featurette. Plus, click the Lions Gate logo, where you’ll find a trailer for this film, as well as a few bonus releases.

Summary:

Confidence has it all indeed, not to mention quite a perfect title. With sharp directing, edgy performances, and a script that carries a few tricks of its own, this is one of the more splendid films of the year.