Confidence Movie Review

If Heist held your attention and The Score kept you guessing, you need to see Confidence, James Foley's stunningly original sting movie that puts the majority of sting movies to shame. Who knew that Foley, the man responsible for brainless thrillers like The Corruptor and Fear, would helm a genre film that outwits even those from acclaimed filmmakers David Mamet and Frank Oz?

Confidence has triple the pizzazz of any caper movie released in the past several years. To say that it keeps you guessing would be misleading; the film has so many twists, turns, and reveals them in such an order that you don't even know where to start guessing. You'll need a scorecard to keep everything in order. Yet, remarkably, in the end, everything adds up without any apparent plot holes. It's astonishing.

Jake (Edward Burns) is a suave, experienced conman who has just swindled $150,000 with the help of his crew: Gordo (Paul Giamatti), Miles (Brian Van Holt), Big Al (Louis Lombardi), and corrupt LAPD officers Whitworth (Donal Logue) and Manzano (Luis Guzman). They soon realize, however, that they unknowingly stole the money from a notorious crime boss called The King (Dustin Hoffman).

Jake bravely offers to repay The King by organizing another elaborate con. He and his crew target Morgan Price, a wealthy banker with ties to organized crime. With so much at stake, Jake convinces a skilled pickpocket named Lily (Rachel Weisz) to join the scheme. But things become even more complicated when Jake's old nemesis, FBI agent Butan (Andy Garcia) and Morgan Price's assistant Travis (Morris Chestnut) enter the picture. In all of this, Jake forgets the single most important rule of his trade: trust no one.

The film is unique in how it takes a relatively normal con story and twists the hell out of it while still keeping everything comprehensible. Because there are so many characters, it would be easy to confuse them, especially considering the complex structure of the plot. Movies with this many characters often avoid such disorder by defining them with shameless stereotypes. But Confidence keeps its characters straight -- in fact, there are times when the movie downright defies such stereotypes.

James Foley directs with confidence (no pun intended), making risky attempts to include us in the commotion. While most of his creative choices are admirable, a few are hit-and-miss. For instance, to make us feel as if we are eavesdropping on the characters as they scheme, he sometimes uses a handheld camera; he even has pedestrians walking past the camera when the characters are scheming in public. Despite its authentic feel, this technique gets irritating rather quickly. I still give kudos to Foley for his innovation, though.

With a story as intricate as the one in Confidence, casting the right actors is vital to the film's success. Edward Burns devours the richly textured dialogue by Doug Jung; he finds a suave connection to his layered character and develops juicy chemistry with costar Rachel Weisz. While all the actors have a field day with the ingenious script, Dustin Hoffman steals the show in a supporting role. In one scene, he delivers one of the coolest monologues of his career while explaining to Jake that style can get you killed. It's an unforgettable movie moment.

This is one of those rare films in which almost everything works, from the crisp direction and stylish performances to the witty dialogue, masterful story, and, most of all, the treacherous, deceitful, double-crossing characters. These guys really put the con in Confidence.

Three (count 'em, three!) commentary tracks plus a collection of deleted scenes (very unusual for a con game movie and heavy on outtakes of Dustin Hoffman hamming it up with strippers) round out a pretty full DVD. Check it out!

Confidence: A new scent from Estee Lauder.


Confidence Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: R, 2003


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