Mania Grade: B
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- Reviewed Format: Wide Theatrical Release
- Rated: R
- Stars: Edward Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia
- Writer: Doug Jung
- Director: James Foley
- Distributor: Lions Gate Films
The lighter side of Mamet, only it's Foley and Jung...
By Abbie Bernstein
April 28, 2003
Although plenty of filmmakers have tackled the subject of confidence artists and their scams, David Mamet has cast a long shadow over the genre since he began working in it. His influence is definitely felt in CONFIDENCE
a violent yet frisky-feeling scam saga directed by James Foley and written by Doug Jung with plenty of double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses performed by a limber, big-name cast.
When we meet Jake Vig (Edward Burns), he's in bad shape. Translation: on his knees with a gun held to his head by an angry enforcer who wants an explanation for all the havoc that's been going on over the past few weeks. Flash back to a few weeks earlier. Jake and his crew of three are in the course of a clever-as-far-as-it-goes routine in a bar that looks a whole lot nastier than it is (guns, fake blood, the works) and nets them a suitcase full of cash from the panicky mark, who flees the scene. The trouble is that this nervous gentleman turns out to work for independent gangster the King (Dustin Hoffman), who has the most talkative member of Jake's gang shot (for real) forthwith and wants the rest of his money back. Jake has a no-refunds policy, but offers to pull a new scam that will recoup all of King's money and then some. King dictates the new mark his old and seemingly untouchable rival (Robert Forster), who runs a legitimate bank.
Throw in a couple of bent cops (Donal Logue, Luis Guzman), a dogged government agent (Andy Garcia), a gorgeous dame with larceny in her soul (Rachel Weisz) and plots within plots within plots and you'll get the idea.CONFIDENCE
is well-structured by Jung and moves along enthusiastically under Foley's guidance the director gives the grubby L.A. surroundings music video funky glamour and gets a kick out of every detail of the ever-shifting levels of what's really going on here.
There is discussion in the dialogue of how master chess players can think 20 moves ahead. This is probably a handy gift for watching CONFIDENCE
, which has so many layers to the grift game that it's very possible to comprehend the outcome without entirely absorbing the journey. It's refreshing to see a caper film that doesn't talk down to the audience, but there are places where Foley and Jung trust us to follow them where it's hard to tell if we're watching the results of vengeful pre-planning, greed or opportunism.
Burns exudes the title sentiment, giving us energy and attitude without telegraphing too much. Weisz is sexy and smart, and Paul Giamatti and Brian Van Holt achieve a wonderfully smooth rhythm as Jake's associates. Hoffman pretty much takes center screen whenever he's on as the genially intimidating mobster whose eccentricity may or may not be a total put-on.
The tone of CONFIDENCE
is an odd mixture of criminal cool and high spirits. We like Jake and his friends, which at once makes them pretty good company and slightly less intriguing as scamsters they're skillful but not the impressively capable-of-anything creatures that populate darker films of this type. However, they're involved in an impressively well-woven yarn, and that's the name of the game here.Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at email@example.com.