Confidence (***)

(2003) dir. James Foley – w/ Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Paul Giamatti, Brian Van Holt, Andy Garcia and Dustin Hoffman

Synopsis: Confidence games, you gotta love ’em. Unless you’re the one getting conned. ‘Confidence’ features a tight-knit group of con-men (led by Ed Burns as ‘Jake’) who, in pulling the wool over the eyes of an unfortunate mark, inadvertently con a major crime figure (Dustin Hoffman) out of several hundred thousand dollars. (Well, $150,000, if I remember correctly.) Their choices are: 1) somehow repay the money [through, wonder of all wonders, another con!] or 2) wind up dead. Unsurprisingly, they opt for the first choice, and that’s where things start to get complicated. Throw in a super-rich, ultra-corrupt banker/lawyer mark, a couple corrupt police officers, a secret agent, and you get ‘Confidence.’

Review: ‘Confidence’ suffers from, among other things, overconfidence; it’s good, but not as good, clever, or original as it thinks it is. It’s an entertaining movie, but it has its problems. Lots of them, actually. One problem has to do with a flaw that’s present in almost any confidence movie where the movie’s end goal is to trick the audience: actions that make sense as you’re watching the movie, but which (once you understand what’s going on) make absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ll try. What I’m complaining about—bitterly—are the kind of things that serve no purpose other than to trick the audience. I know, I know, that’s kinda the point. BUT suppose, for a moment, that you’re watching a movie that you think takes place in prehistoric times, in times when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (I don’t know, it’s a time-travel movie or something.) Anyway, you see people (the time travelers) and you see a dinosaur. A real-life, honest-to-goodness dinosaur. Not a person wearing a dinosaur costume, not a robot dinosaur, a real, live dinosaur. Which, reasonably, is one of your main reasons for thinking the movie takes place during prehistoric times. Then you get to the end of the movie and you find out, it was really 1949 all along! Ha! Boy, we sure fooled you.

“Okay, so what about the dinosaur?” you ask.
“What dinosaur?”
“The dinosaur? Remember? The one that trampled Fred Dorminey?”
Blank stares.

(The point being, how the hell did the dinosaur get there? It’s never explained, and, in fact, it’s not possible given the logical framework of the movie, but it’s there nonetheless.)

Admittedly, it’s a very bad analogy. An extremely bad analogy. But there’s a chance, however slim, that it might help explain what I’m talking about. Another one of the movie’s problems is that it suffers from some poor editing at spots: fragments of conversations that were left in the movie and that don’t really make sense until (and only if) you watch the “deleted scenes” segment on the DVD. (“Did you kill him?” WTF?) Taking this into consideration, I guess it’s really a testament to the actors and writers that in spite of these flaws, ‘Confidence’ manages to be halfway decent. (Either that or low standards. Probably a combination of the two.) Basically, it’s a decent movie, but doesn’t add particularly much to the genre.

Rating: [••• out of •••••]

Etc.: Mamet’s House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner are both much better at confidence games than Confidence is.