Confidence (2003) / Crime-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some language and sexual references
Running Time: 123 min.

Cast: Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Franky G., Andy Garcia, Luis Guzman, Donal Logue
Director:  James Foley
Screenplay: Doug Jung

Review published April 25, 2003

The con game has been a frequently visited subject in film, but it has almost become its own genre in the last couple of years.   Heist, The Nine Queens, Ocean's Eleven, The Score come readily to mind, and if you want to stretch things more, Heartbreakers, Catch Me If You Can and probably a plethora of b-movie cheapies.  Although the main object is to fool the audience, the con game flick has become quite conventional, and from the get go you are reasonably sure that things aren't going to be what they appear, and that the guy who's down one second is going to be the one on top the next.

Threatening to be redundant is Confidence, a nifty mish-mash of Mamet, Tarantino and Elmore Leonard, giving us bits and pieces of what made those creative minds so popular without ever staking out any new territory of its own.  It's a wholly derivative flick, but goes on to prove that even a second-hand idea can be put to good use. 

It's a star-studded cast, but Edward Burns (Ash Wednesday, Saving Private Ryan) is front and center, as grifter Jake Vig, who has assembled a crew of swindling thieves to hustle hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting dupes.  However, they seem to have hustled the wrong man, because he ends up being a guy working for a bigger fish criminal named "The King" (Hoffman, Moonlight Mile), and he also ends up being very dead.  Jake offers to repay The King for his losses by pulling off a big-time scam with the mark of his choosing.  The King chooses high-roller banker Morgan Price (Forster, Finder's Fee), and along with one of King's men and a Vig-picked damsel named Lily (Weisz, The Shape of Things), the wheels are set in motion for a $5 million dollar gig.  However, Fed agent Gunther Butan (Andy Garcia, Desperate Measures) is now in the mix, making the best laid plans a little more uncertain.

Without the caliber of talent assembled, Confidence would have easily been just another b-movie swindle drama.  Under the stylish eye of James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, After Dark My Sweet) it becomes a hip little flick, visually catchy like Soderbergh with characters as colorfully portrayed as Tarantino.  It never really reaches great heights as the films it emulates, but it does make a decent impression as an imitator.

Most of the way, it's an interesting diversion, and even if the plot seems dog-tired, the characters are lively and the situations interesting enough to keep you at attention.  Towards the end, the flimsily held together plot begins to strain from the pressure of implausibility, and eventually collapses into the realm of the absurd.  However, by that time, you'll probably be content enough to leave it smiling, having gotten your money's worth of entertainment value. 

Expect only a momentary diversion from Confidence, because you're not going to get much more out of it.  It's a fast-food crime caper tasty enough to hold you over until the next meal.  Recommended for lovers of neo-noir, Mamet, and those who can't get enough of the grift.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo