Jake Vig (Edward Burns, in a rare short haired appearance) is a deeply skilled
grifter who has just pulled off a major score with his crew (including Paul
Giamatti and Brian Van Holt). Trouble is, the loot belonged to a major criminal
kingpin (Dustin Hoffman), who wants Jake to pull a job for him to make up the
difference. Looking at a potential con that will net all the participants over 5
million dollars, Jake recruits a shadowy woman (Rachel Weisz, "The Mummy") to
the team, and they set off to make the score. On their tail is a federal agent
(Andy Garcia), who has past ties to Jake, and who won't stop until he makes sure
Jake is behind bars for good.
The con artist genre has been bled pretty dry in recent years with such films as
"Heartbreakers," "Catch Me If You Can," and "Ocean's Eleven." You can think of
"Confidence" (IMDb listing) as "Ocean's Four," with everything about the film just a little
smaller, and a little less effective than the Steven Soderbergh remake of 2001.
Of course, there is fun in watching people steal from each other, and there
always will be. But "Confidence" coasts a little too long on this charm, weaving
together a confidence story that is all too aware of itself, and thus choking
the life out of the fun.
Written by Doug Jung, "Confidence" delivers everything you'd expect: the tough
guys, the kooky criminal mastermind, the femme fatale, crooked cops, and a every
line of dialog punctuated with the F-word. This is tired material, but director
James Foley ("Glengarry Glen Ross") gets the momentum moving early, and his
storytelling is stylish and inoffensive. He pulls out every trick in the book to
keep the barge afloat, and he's more successful than not. "Confidence" wouldn't
turn too many heads in a crowded room, but as con films go, this is entertaining
filmmaking and features a willing cast.
Even with all the smooth, hip con artist moves to watch, "Confidence" ultimately
becomes so aware of audience participation, that it piles on the double-crosses,
time switches, and multiple characters just to keep people guessing.
Technically, and I'm loathe to admit this, it isn't terribly hard to figure out
certain things that the film assumes to be fooling everyone. But in taking on
such a twisty story, Foley loses the appeal that was there in the opening of the
film, when things are a lot more streamlined. The overcompensation needed to
keep the audience on their toes is too much, so when characters meet their
ultimate fates, the expected reactions just aren't there. The audience is left
behind, trying to keep it all together.
Maybe the biggest swindle "Confidence" made was tricking me into liking it. For
fans of stylish thieves, wacky criminals, and well, cursing, this might be the
umpteenth trip around the maypole with this plot, but it's a reasonable one
worth a look.
Filmfodder Grade: B