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Confidence | Review

Con Fair

Foley’s ‘scam them’ and ‘switch this’ heist scenario feels like recycled material

Have you ever heard of the expression ‘money makes the world go round’? Some people make it a specialty of theirs to get some green bills without having to punch in a timecard, but rather punch out a couple of schemes which sees actual people act as personal ATM’s. While con-artists might have their own set of rules, Hollywood flicks like James Foley’s Confidence which follows a certain style and a standard set of conventions on how to make a heist film, unfortunately for the genre and movie-going audiences there seems to be more photocopied results.

The first question we ask with the opening sequence is who did he cross that he shouldn’t have? The film commences with a packed intro giving us perhaps the film’s ending where we see the film’s protagonist in the unlikely predicament of having a bullet only seconds away from piercing his skin, with a gun in the hand of an angry man behind him. The film plays itself out by bringing the viewers along for a series of twist and turns showing us crosses and double crosses and quadruple crosses. The young and brash, yet sophisticated head of a ‘pick them and pluck their money operation’ is Jake Vig (Edward Burns-Saving Private Ryan) who for the most part isn’t lying down in a pool of blood but standing up and figuring out following moves as in a game of chess or a match of pool. The mastermind with the good looks has got his own Ocean’s troupe thing going on here-except, that there are a lot less than the double digits of Soderbergh’s flick. The film takes us from a somewhat detailed set-up giving us a who’s who understanding of the characters and then forward-leaps us into either one big mess or one smart plan; I like to think of it as a flick which is of a campy-like caliber with a sort of screwy plotline reminiscent of a Get Shorty.

Burns who is not my favorite choice for a possible lead gives us an irritating narration throughout the film, giving us pointers, the rules of engagement and score cards on all the players. The most interesting figure of the score cards is named The King played by Dustin Hoffman (Moonlight Mile) who is misused in an uninventive role which showcases him as a caricatured oddball with a couple of nifty but rather unmoving philosopher’s lines to say. How unfortunate for us that Hoffman’s (Moonlight Mile) Americana film status isn’t utilized to its true potential and how disappointing it is that he doesn’t have a larger role to play. While, we might not get enough of Hoffman, we have a good substitute as a contemporary femme-fatale with the Rebecca Pigeon-like quality found in Rachel Weisz (The Shape of Things). The shadowy neon lighting that Foley loves to employ as witnessed in Glengarry GlenRoss bounces of this character just like a 30’s film-noir picture. The film can be hard to watch in a physical sense, with the headache inducing use of the visuals and sometimes unbearably long sequences which see the wandering camera with close-up two and three-shot panning from left to right and vice-versa. These sets of visuals don’t sit well with the problematic nature of the plotline which doesn’t give us enough of the dark side from these types of underworlds. Perhaps if the famous ‘itch’ that people got when they were around green was emphasized more before being announced then we’d get a better sense of the purpose for all of the films back-stabbing and forward punches. I thinking that in order to kept the viewer interest up for a longer haul the addition of a little more comedy or a little more drama could have benefited the picture and perhaps the ‘wait a minute where is this film taking us’ narrative could have at least attempted to avoid the predictable results of a bigger sting job. With the fade off into the sun final, we get the impression that the story never tried to get audiences out of the “I’ve seen before trap’.

In the end, you get the sense that you’ve already seen this movie before, in fact, you’ve seen it a dozen times before and you’ve also seen heist films as of late be a little on the boring side and the notable exception of Ocean’s Eleven isn’t the top of the tops either. Confidence has a couple of fun moments; but in the world where there are more losers than winners James Foley’s slicked-up sly version doesn’t fair well with the other heist films available, try The Good Thief instead.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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