Dir: James Foley. 2002. US. 98mins
James Foley's con-thriller, Confidence, tries to be as clever as the word play in its title, but this attempt at a clever-clever heist story fails due to a slack script and so-so performances. Despite some snappy dialogue, twists and turns and toying with the linear narrative, the screenplay, by newcomer Doug Jung, never really works and leaves the audience caring neither for the story nor the characters. Foley (who has yet to better Glengarry Glen Ross) tries his best to edit and shoot the film more interesting than it actually is, but the end result never approaches the slickness, entertainment value and pacing of the likes of David Mamet's Heist or even Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, and has more in common with the likes of The Boiler Room. Lions Gate holds US rights and will use them for a (most likely) brief theatrical run. The film's future both internationally and at home lies in video/DVD, where Dustin Hoffman's presence should at least generate some interest.
Opening with a voiceover a la Sunset Boulevard, the film recounts the last three weeks in the life of Jake (Burns), as told to a man holding a gun to his head. Travelling back, the story relates how the small-time criminal and his crew unknowingly rip off the accountant of crime boss Winston King (Hoffman) and end up indebted to The King, who has one of their friends murdered before Jake offers to make a deal. The arrangement means the trio will have to pull their biggest con ever on a banker with ties to organised crime. For this they recruit pickpocket Lily (Weisz), at which point Jake's interest goes beyond the professional.
What follows is a story of cons and double- and triple-crosses that never really becomes very interesting. In essence the scam boils down to a scheme to convince a banker that he should provide a start-up loan to a company; since this is accomplished by a bribe, the story never explains why it takes five people to do this. Similarly, there is never any real explanation as to why Jake's supposed nemesis (Garcia) forces two corrupt cops to take down his opponent.
Foley's ability to extract great performances from an ensemble cast (as seen in his excellent Glengarry Glen Ross) is clearly needed here but sadly lacking. The stony-faced Burns is neither convincing nor charming enough for the part of Jake, while both Weisz and Garcia have too little in their parts to play with. Hoffman clearly enjoys himself as the potentially dangerous King: his scenes are the highlight of the film, but there are not enough of these to sustain audience interest, leaving the best lines to the always enjoyable Giamatti. Technical credits are reasonable.
Prod co: Ignite Entertainment, Cinerenta, Lions Gate Films
Int'l sales: Lions Gate Films
Exec prod: Eric Kopeloff, Marco Meh.itz, BurEberhard Kayser, Scott Bernstein
Prod: Marc Butan, Michael Paseornek, Michael Burns, Michael Ohoven
Scr: Doug Jung
Cinematography: Juan Ruiz-Anchia
Ed: Stuart Levy
Prod des: Bill Arnold
Cast: Edward Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Paul Giamatti, Luis Guzman