Sunday 2 April 2017

Movie Review: Confidence (2003)

A stylish crime drama, Confidence is a complex sting story told with plenty of panache but not much heart.

The film is told in flashback and narrated by Jake Vig (Edward Burns), who has just been shot in Los Angeles. Three weeks earlier, Jake and his buddies Gordo (Paul Giamatti), Miles (Brian Van Holt) and Al (Louis Lombardi) run a sting inadvertently victimizing crime lord The King (Dustin Hoffman). In return The King has Al killed. Jake averts further casualties by offering to run a sting for The King to recover his losses. Corrupt banker Morgan Price (Robert Forster) is the selected mark.

Jake prepares an elaborate ruse to wire $5 million out of Price's bank to a fake company in Belize. He enlists the help of fellow con artist Lily (Rachel Weisz), and the crew target a corruptible bank Vice President to help make the transfer happen. But local crooked cops Omar Manzano (Luis Guzmán) and Lloyd Whitworth (Donal Logue) are pressured by Special Agent Gunther Butan (Andy García) into harassing Jake, massively complicating the operation.

Directed by James Foley, Confidence is a slick exercise in explaining the mechanics of high stakes cons. This is both the film's triumph and its weakness. The movie's construction is a visually compelling autopsy of how to succeed in crime, narrated by Jake as he dissects every move in detail. As a result the plot remains comprehensible despite its complexity, but because the entire movie is effectively a 97 minute learning course, the passion and character warmth are missing. It's also relatively easy to figure out who is being conned at every given stage.

Setting aside the sense of detachment. Foley focusses on style and delivers in spades. This film is bathed in neon, internal lights, colours, shadows and silhouettes, achieving an absorbing neo-noir aesthetic. There are almost no ordinary shots, as every frame is lovingly constructed from interesting angles and dynamic perspectives. The combination of convoluted plot and rich style deliver a captivating experience.

Jake Vig believes in one thing above all: confidence is the path to riches. He also understands most people's weakness in front of the promise of easy money, and exploits this feebleness to full advantage. Edward Burns internalizes the role and cruises through the film with a cool-under-pressure dogma. Dustin Hoffman sinks his teeth into a pretty insane turn as The King, a crime boss all too aware of his ADHD and exploiting the condition to full effect. There may be few more threatening conditions for crime than a murderous mobster who can't hold a thought for long enough to think. Otherwise the film's brevity is welcome, but comes at the expense of depth. Jake finds his counterpart in Lily, but overall Rachel Weisz and all the other characters have no arc and remain stock representations.

But this is a movie about process rather than people, and Confidence manipulates the cards then plays them with a bullish swagger.

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  1. You might wanted to change Norton part, as it's Edward burns not Norton who's in this film.


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