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Confidence - Preview



Preview by: Jack Foley

EDWARD Burns describes his latest film, Confidence, as 'a contemporary version of The Sting, a con movie with a bit of a wink to it'. And if the buzz is to be believed from the recent Sundance Film Festival, the description might not be a long way off.

Confidence follows the fortunes of Burns' con man, Jake Vig, who manages to scam a few thousand dollars from a Mob kingpin without realising the trouble it will lead to. The kingpin in question (played by Dustin Hoffman), retliates by killing out a member of Vig's crew and wants the money back, prompting Vig and his crew to recover it by scamming the kingpin's nemesis, a high-powered financier.

Thrown into the mix, to complicate matters still further, is a tough-talking dame (played by Rachel Weisz) and a grudge-bearing Federal agent (Andy Garcia), who will apparently stop at nothing to exact his revenge.

Sound convoluted? You bet. But then most of the best heist movies are, dealing with bluff and counter bluff on the way to their (hopefully) entertaining finales.

Needless to say, however, much of the hype surrounding Confidence has been generated by the talents of its heavyweight cast - although the film remains strictly independent, in that it was made for a mere $10 million and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

It has also been directed by James Foley, whose CV includes the memorable Glengarry Glen Ross (which featured another strong ensemble) and the less memorable, The Corrupter.

Another of the movie's stars, Paul Giammati (who was the talk of the festival after his performances in this and American Splendor), refers to Confidence as 'a con man movie that shows the audience the mechanics of what con artists actually do'.

He adds, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, that 'the idea is to give people an almost documentary feel for how these guys pull of a scam'.

The film is based upon a first-time screenplay from Doug Jung and, owing to its modest budget, had to be switched from its original New York setting to LA.

But the toghest thing about producing the script, according to Burns, is 'how much these characters lie to each other and everyone else in the movie. We had to make sure that, at no point, did the script ever lie to the audience'.

Heist movies have enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, what with the ultra-stylish likes of Ocean's 11 and The Good Thief, as well as the more gritty likes of Heist (starring Gene Hackman). It remains to be seen whether Confidence can emulate such past successes, particularly as it is being given only a limited US cinema release by its distributor, Lions Gate Films.

But we have every reason to feel confident as website, Movies.com, took in a screening at Sundance and said that 'James Foley's Confidence, twists and turns, stylish camerawork, and a fantastic ensemble cast keep you guessing, never sure of who's doing what to whom, where, or when'.

It concluded that it 'is to Foley's credit that the pace is fast and the plot two steps ahead, always out of reach of the predictable'.

US REACTION...

THE critics appear to have been lining up to heap praise upon Confidence, which seems to have scored highly with the majority of those who saw it.

Leading the way, is EFilmCritic.com, which wrote that, 'seemingly inspired by Pulp Fiction, The Sting and anything presented by the word processor of David Mamet...yet still the flick entertains in its own right. And wait till you see this CAST!'

Variety wrote that Confidence is 'a stylish, compelling crime caper full of smoothly navigated plot twists', while Hollywood Reporter stated that 'Doug Jung supplies a slick and clever screenplay that maps out all the moves like a chess master teaching a class, while veteran director James Foley casts the movie oh so sweetly'.

More dismissive was Village Voice, which said that it 'lazily assembles a batch of movie stars, turns them loose on a script that reflects nothing so much as a committee interpretation of every other caper flick, and lets them bounce off each other like so many overpaid billiard balls'.

But Entertainment Weekly wrote that 'Confidence may be mannered at times, but its shell-game plot is alive with organic trickery'. It awarded it a B.

The Chicago Tribune wrote that 'Foley keeps the action moving swiftly enough that you don't have time to enter analytical mode', while Hollywood Report Card drooled, 'oh, this is a good film. Fun, curious dialogue rolls across the tongues of rich, likable characters, to create a strong, thumping pace that never lulls'.

LA Weekly was also impressed, stating that it was 'warm, playful and inclusive of its audience', while TV Guide advised viewers to, 'just sit back and enjoy the sharp performances and stylish ambiance that are clearly this film's real reason for existing'.

Less kind, however, was the New York Post, which felt that it 'features all too much footage of the scowling Burns, who has a narrower range than almost any actor working in Hollywood these days', while the New York Times wrote that it is 'so infatuated with the idea of style at the expense of everything else that it manages not to have any of its own'.

The Onion's A.V Club, meanwhile, felt that it 'knows all the notes, but forgets the music'.

Worse still, was the Philadelphia Inquirer, which felt that, '… just like the characters on-screen, all it wants to do is take your money and run'.

Planet Sick-Boy, however, felt that Confidence was 'one of those films that's perfectly entertaining while you're watching it but don't realize how slight it actually is until you think about it afterward', while E! Online concludes this round-up by awarding it a B+ and noting that 'the colorful cast … keeps good time with the efficient and snappy plot'.

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