Yahoo! Movies says to watch the first 6 minutes, but those 6 minutes are the weakest in the film. Don’t do it! I admit I went into this film with a terrible attitude about the quality potential, but I was pleasantly diverted for the 92 minutes after its clumsy beginning. Confidence has a perfectly amiable ensemble cast, led by Ed Burns, and including Paul “everything I touch is good” Giamatti, Rachel Weisz, Luis Guzman, Donal Logue, Dustin Hoffman, Bill-Paxton-wanna-be Brian Van Holt, Andy Garcia, and newbie Frankie G. Even with all the players being on very different sides, they play together very well, and their ensemble and connection surpass the adequate script by Doug Jung.
There are some nice twists, and generally speaking the film was better than I went in expecting it to be. Occasionally the story stumbled or the editing embarrassed itself, but really the human interest held the elaborate net of con games together. We’re supposed to develop a level of trust in this subset of characters, and mistrust any alteration in that plan; then they show us the backstage workings of what they are doing and totally flip our expectations. Sometimes (fortunately, the majority of the time, at least for me) it worked as a surprise. Occasionally, not so much. The levels of corruptibility and ethical behavior in all the players seemed simultaneously ludicrously over the top and also super-realistic (you know, real people have layers, blah blah blah). Of course, John Q. Public might at some time be tempted to break some laws in the name of some great and lusty goal, but morals (unlike the law) draw a line between fiscal victimization and physical victimization. These guys are ethical scofflaws (some of them) who can use that dichotomy to charm you. It’s wacky.
Dustin Hoffman clearly wanted his character to be even more elaborate than he was already written; the previews show him as an older, dangerous man, menacing baby faced Burns, but there is a lot more to this cat that meets the eye. Hoffman uses every millisecond of screen exposure to render The King more densely. Heaven knows what quirks and preferences lie on Lion’s Gate’s cutting room floors.
Historically, Ed Burns has not been a strong lead actor for me. In this, his hoarse-voiced, bland-expression opacity is just right to play confidence artist Jake Vig. In contrast, blustery, fully-committed Paul Giamatti, who is always a solid and enjoyable force no matter what he’s doing, and sexy, elusive Rachel Weisz, who comes out of nowhere to slither around these men and their well-established trust. On one level, it doesn’t *seem* new and familiar, and yet here it is, feeling so anyway. I admit fully that I am way more excited about the upcoming film The Italian Job than I was about Confidence, but I am glad that Confidence was an enjoyable amusement.
MPAA Rating R for language, violence and sexuality/nudity.
Release date 4/25/03
Time in minutes 98
Director James Foley
Studio Lions Gate Films