Confidence (2003)

CONfidence“It’s all confidence,” main character Jake Vig declares (Ed Burns), a slick and charming conman who leads an assembled group of conmen into some of the most brilliant cons. Taking a page right out of the classic “The Sting”, a group of professional conmen pull a fast job on a schmuck at a club, but when they discover that the schmuck they duped was about to deliver his money to mob boss Winston King, one of their men is killed and now they must confront King. King, a rather erratic but threatening boss makes a deal with them: if they pull a job on his rival Morgan Price he’ll give them a cut of the money and let them live, now with many uneasy partnerships with a few new conmen, a difficulties with an investigator who is on their tail, they must pull the con and not get arrested. But who is getting conned? And who can be trusted?

I love films about con men; and there have been some corkers “The Sting”, “Paper Moon” it’s all so lovely and this comes into the category as one stylish and clever film with one hell of a cast. A truly good and underrated actor Edward Burns presents the living embodiment of style channeling Bogart and Redford as an interesting and charming anti-hero who must organize the ultimate con and form a group of specialists to help engage in the con which is to help Winston con his rival out a lot of money. “CONfidence” features an excellent cast of actors including Luis Guzman and Donal Logue as crooked cops, Andy Garcia as a special investigator probing Jake, Brian Van Holt and Paul Giamatti as Jake’s partners and the always delectable Rachel Weisz as the femme fatale.

Edward Burns (15 Minutes, Sidewalks of New York) who I usually love in lemons like “15 Minutes” to good ones like “Saving Private Ryan”, is great as the anti-hero in the film and it was good to see him lead up the cast. “Confidence” is not a bad film, in fact I found it quite enjoyable and entertaining, the only problem is, it has the potential and planting grounds to be a slick masterpiece but in the end only ends up becoming mediocre. A lot of the material in the film and the elements of the story are contrived and taken from other films right down to the last moments of the climax which seem to have been copied right off of the “Ocean’s Eleven” remake in 2002. I spent so much of the film thinking about ways certain parts could have been better executed and more riveting and it’s a shame.

A lot of the film is taken from other better films, the plot from “The Sting”, the con’s from “The Usual Suspects”, the characters look as if they came right off of a noir film, the climax off of “The Sting” yet again, and, as I pointed out above, the final minutes from the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven”. What’s sad is that the film is supposed spark a twist surprise ending that, if considered, is not that surprising at all and can be seen coming from a mile away. Hell, five miles. Here we have a top notch cast of actors: Luis Guzman, Donal Logue, Andy Garcia, Brian Van Holt, the always likable Paul Giamatti, Ed burns one of my favorite actors, Rachel Weisz who is always gorgeous and great, and of course, one of my favorite actors of all time Dustin Hoffman who proves he can act circles around the cast and steals every scene making them look like little leaguers.

Not to say that these people aren’t good actors, but they tend to pale when compared to Hoffman who gives a top notch performance as mob boss Winston King. What’s a true shame, something that really annoyed me is that Hoffman, one of the main reasons I got into films, is completely wasted in this. His character, the mob boss Winston King is erratic, wild, and completely intimidating and threatening, but he only has a combined screen time of fifteen minutes in the film. It would have been a lot more satisfying had they focused more on King’s personality, his power, and making him a more interesting presence for motivation and fear on the main character’s part.

Aside from that misdeed, we’re barely ever given anything even remotely riveting during the story; most of the film is comprised of a lot of style, but as King so eloquently puts it: “Style can get you killed”, and what killed this was the immense amount of style and little substance. Many of the sequences which had the potential to be rather inventive ended up just being bland. The love subplot between Weisz and Burns is poorly underdeveloped, the subplot with the crooked officers and Butan on their tale was poorly underused, the tension between the three surviving conmen was badly developed, so it’s hard to become riveted with a flick that doesn’t give a lot.

The opening scene wasn’t set up enough, and the impact on conning the wrong person wasn’t there, and the climax with the final con wasn’t executed enough to become shocking or truly interesting. Instead most of it is plain and seems to go about in a slow sleepy pace. The final con, which is left for the climax, as the rule requires, is so boring and anti-climactic. Plus, it also makes you question the real intelligence of the character Winston King who actually shows up to the location for the final sting knowing he may be caught by the police. No real mob boss in a story would show up to a money pick up. Then there’s the last minutes of the film which seemed to lift right off of “The Sting” except it wasn’t shocking because it was so dreadfully predictable. In the end, I was entertained, but hardly stunned.