Movie Review
Confidence poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published May 2, 2003
US Release: April 25, 2003

Directed by: James Foley
Starring: Dustin Hoffman , Edward Burns , Rachel Weisz , Paul Giamatti

Running Time: 98 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $12,193,000
37 of 132
Reasonable for what it is, but we?ve seen better executions in quality before
There are things to like in Confidence, and while I did enjoy it the experience lacked a real punch to qualify for anything remotely unique.

As time progresses screenwriters are going to have a tough time developing new episodes into the heist flick genre; that is, if they wish to successfully introduce some slick twists and turns, tricking the audience into thinking one way when boom, our perspective was false. The problem with the continuing efforts is that some borrow ingredients from already produced styles, and the layout of the switches can occasionally be mapped out even before it occurs in a new installment.
Confidence is a film that has quite a few components working in its favor via suave and cool texture and the look of things; but often times what we?re given doesn?t retrieve a great internal reaction, as some of its material has been touched before but in different layers. What keeps interest elevated above average-flick statuses is the directing motif brought on by James Foley, who gives almost every scene an essence of coolness that even teases us into wanting to be a member of its own society. The script?s players are participators of cool, and we?d like to be in on it (much like the quote in Almost Famous).

With heist stories, the less said the better the experience can generally be for moviegoers. As really, the surprise or shock that can come is from not expecting the result of an incident. However, I do have to note, as spoiler natured as this might be in one sense, that this tale lacks efficient one-two punches in the field of twists and turns. In fact, throughout most of its duration the film is played straight with characters learning how to participate and deal with con games, but rarely is the audience ever the victim.

Though there are definitely moments of fun and intrigue to be had with the mind games these people play on each other, it still was anticipated to receive some sort of hoax somewhere in between. And in that regard I was a little disappointed, as even with my relatively fatigued state of mind I wanted to be tricked; after all, that?s part of the excitement of these flicks.

Confidence revolves around con artists who make their living out of cheating others. And what it misses is the deep urgency to want to part with the characters (as villains) as much as it is achieved in Ocean?s 11. If you think about it, the Steven Soderbergh-directed flick (Ocean?s) held a premise that asked the viewer to be a criminal for two hours, and quite a few people gladly bought into it. We rooted for the bad guys and that can be a hard task to succeed with (even with their good-natured personalities), and in morality it surely proposes an interesting argument for discussion.

Edward Burns stars as Jake Vig, a slick talker with the appropriate look for this kind of business. Following a failed heist and a member of his team (of crooks) being taken care of, it leaves Jake falling into the hands of The King (Dustin Hoffman) due to debt; King, a sneaky figure with a lot of power, talks Vig into a job that would attempt to avenge the friend?s murderer. It is now up to Jake?s clan to pull off the assignment or face the consequences of failing his boss. This is a familiar formula for a heist story, but as commonly known as it is, the storytelling is sharp and though some of the character breakdown lacks a big punch-line for us to deeply nurture these folks, the ride is nevertheless entertaining to a certain point.

Confidence also features Rachel Weisz as Lily (an extra member of the team), along with the always-likable Paul Giamatti as Gordo, Andy Garcia as a detective chasing down this clan, as well as Luiz Guzman playing a drug enforcement officer alongside Donal Logue. The actor that really shines in this heist adventure is Dustin Hoffman, whose performance as The King really sparkles with fire. From the wardrobe assigned, to the way he chews gum, to the way about his speech, to his interaction, it?s a role that fully takes advantage of Hoffman?s talent and allows the actor to even look younger for a change?but maybe in more of a hip way. From the first moment Hoffman was introduced, I was already admiring the presence and when he wasn?t around I was begging for his return.

The problem that comes with the great delivery of Hoffman is the challenge for everyone else to match up to such a level of coolness, and few do. Burns is correctly cast as an artist with (excuse the word choice) the ideal confident look, but when it comes to Weisz and Garcia there really isn?t much beneath the page to fully grasp their purpose in the film. Luiz Guzman is an amusement as usual, but is given little to work with and is more of a plainly slick figure than anything else; yes, it?s a heist flick and slick people are nice to gaze at, but there?s always a script that needs to be dealt with.

The real stars of Confidence end up being Hoffman and Giamatti in the long run. The two cast members give in to their potential and supply performances that yes, are cool in nature, but if observance is noted in many of their scenes one can point out the really small details that make up their approach. Such involves the speed of their speech, eye movements, and certain facial expressions produced to make the difference between "trying" to be the persona and simply "being" the persona.

Where the film sinks is not only the lack of twists along the way to jump-start our brains, but the way in which the script has been structured. We?re given a limited quantity of background knowledge on most of our players, which then places a questionable spin when our compassionate side needs to play its part, as whether or not we really care for the eventual turnout needs to be decided. I, for one, was not emotionally wrapped up in these characters? minds but the format of which the story is told and presented was what kept my attention somewhat consistent. It could be another form of style over substance in one angle; but then again, there are a few characters that do contradict that statement (just not enough).

I?ve always been a fan of slick and cool flicks, as what can I say, they?re fun. And some of the hot ingredients that make these films true treasures ("Show, don?t tell" method, as well as plot turns) are evidenced here, but just not to a level or quantity that is too exhilarating (more so with the latter element). Confidence is what you call a movie that does the job for an hour and forty-five minutes, but you may not flash back to the experience a week later in remembrance of a really worthwhile trip. It?s a ride that diverts attention for a moderate amount of time, but leaving the theater will most likely not follow up in devouring tidbits as some films of the genre ask of the moviegoer.

The film is reasonable for what it is, but we?ve seen better executions in quality before and hope that the past is not just a memory. Confidence will pretty definitely not be the finale of the genre, but if it was it would be a little uneventful; it hands over some ingredients we want to soak up, but in the end we don?t really feel any cooler than we did walking in.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #37 of 132 between Owning Mahowny (#36) and Head of State (#38) for 2003 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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