REVIEW BY ALEX GRANT.
Starring: Ed Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Forster
James Foleys intricate and head-spinning thriller CONFIDENCE is
devoted to the antics of a merry band of grifters led by Jake Vig (Edward
Burns), a brutally conceited con-man who has bitten off a lot more than
he is accustomed to chewing and digesting comfortably Inadvertently
stealing $150,000 from a vengeful petty gang lord, the paternalistic
and pompous King (Dustin Hoffman), he and his awestruck cronies are
obliged to concoct a much bigger scam involving Kings arch- enemy
Morgan Price ( Robert Forster), a slick banker who specializes in money
laundering, in order to repay the vicious motor-mouth King. They hope
to score $5 million with a fake corporate bank loan swindled from the
Price Bank. To this end Jake hires spirited pick-pocket Lily (Rachel
Weisz) to seduce a gullible loans manager into accepting a phony letter
of intent. Jakes co-conspirators are able to pass as MBA types
even though they have been bumbling blue-collar losers often in the
past. Talk about a con,huh? And they think that they are so smooth and
film zips mercurially from past to present piling bad guys upon
even more bad guys - each grifter with an elaborate con of his own
going - two corrupt L.A. cops Manzano and Whitworth ( Luis Guzman
and Donal Logue), who oil the machinery for the Vig gang, and a
seedy FBI agent Gunther Butan ( Andy Garcia who chews the
scenery almost as assiduously as does Hoffman), It seems that everyone
is on the take and nobody understands that nobody should ever be
taken at face value. Frankly the underhand motives of the Vig gang
are so transparent at all times that the audience has to be unusually
gullible to accept these smirking simulacrums as the Real McCoy.
The problem being that Ed Burns seems so smitten with his own uber-cool
and extravagant ability to fool all of the people all of the time
that he has no human qualities that lead us to empathize with his
plight. He has every confidence in his own skill at pulling the
wool over others eyes but such arrogance is hugely unappealing
and playing everyone as a puppet with God-like powers is disconcerting.
A man of his ilk would not have a single friend in the world.
ultra-cool heads seldom rule the roost in real life since they fail
to understand the meaning of loyalty and of steadfastness in human relations.
To them all that matters is the surface and the glitter and the superficiae.The
figure of the confidence-trickster in American literature and cinema
is a hallowed one and has to be presented as a figure with feet-of-clay:
a man whose hubris must lead to a dramatic fall from grace, one from
which he is allowed to bounce back after the inevitable humiliation
and exposure to the hard realities of life as lived among the honest,
the plain, and the hard-working, no matter how tempting it is to profit
without effort but merely from the efforts of hard-working others who
choose to pay far less attention to mere appearances and do not expect
fortune to fall in their laps thanks to a winning grin, a cajoling voice
and superhuman self-confidence.
© Alex Grant April 25th 2003
all rights reserved