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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Confidence

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Confidence isn’t the first and surely won’t be the last movie to be made in which the direction is so ostentatious that it veers into the heavy-handed, and the dialogue is as loud and empty as the me! me! me! scream of an irate toddler. Edward Burns slips easily into the role of Jake Vig, a Mamet-tongued con man who, along with his merry band of scam artists, travels from city to city ripping off the rich and rarely innocent. He and his pals take the wrong guy in Los Angeles, accidentally indebting themselves to the King (Dustin Hoffman), a local big shot who assigns them to con an apparently unconnable banker with criminal ties.

Vig enlists the help of Lily (Rachel Weisz), a sultry pickpocket who captures his fancy after stealing his wallet, to act as his con’s shill. She’s to sex up a bored bank VP in order to finagle a loan for a nonexistent company, which will transfer the bucks to an offshore account. Jake then flies to Grand Cayman or Nassau or wherever to cash a big check, and everyone lives wealthily ever after.

Director James Foley (who hasn’t made a movie since 1999’s The Corruptor) and first-time screenwriter Doug Jung try to avoid being blamed for sticking a completely lame, overdone scam in a movie that they very clearly want to be more than it is by having Jake’s buddies point out how moronic the plan is. But just because a character defuses criticism of his creators doesn’t mean the criticism isn’t valid.

Hoffman has a memorable, extended cameo as the King, whom he plays as a slightly craftier, possibly sleazier Ratso Rizzo, all grown-up and still jitterific. And while nobody in the Confidence cast does anything really wrong, they get screwed by the people who are supposedly paid to make them look good.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the grander delusions of Confidence. Foley and Jung try to draw us into their witticism-laden, color-saturated milieu, but all they succeed in doing is drawing attention to themselves. The trick of a magician is to deflect attention from the area where the hand is being sleighted. Rookie Jung can be forgiven for trampling where he should have tiptoed, but Foley ought to have known better.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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