Lions Gate presents
"They say a good chess player can see up to twenty moves deep. That means that in some games, you've calculated every possible move in your head. The game's over even before it's really started. Like a game of chess, same with a con. You have to see that deep."- Jake Vig (Edward Burns)
Stars: Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman
Other Stars: Paul Giamatti, Donal Logue, Luis Guzman, Brian Van Holt, Franky G, Robert Forster, Leland Orser, Morris Chestnut
Director: James Foley
MPAA Rating: R for language, violence, and sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 01h:37m:02s
Release Date: 2003-09-16
DVD ReviewI have grown to dislike movies that rely on twist after twist to prove entertaining. Ever since The Sixth Sense, it feels like every Hollywood thriller tries to up the ante by bombarding the audience with one shocking surprise after another. Whatever happened to the power of conventional storytelling? Have audiences really become so desensitized that they need to be duped in order to feel stimulated by their entertainment? Ranting aside, Confidence contains plenty of twists, yet unlike so many films that only seem out to shock the audience, these twists prove to be an essential element in telling the story. This tale of heists, double crosses, and cons subscribes more to the mounting, sneaky deceptions of films like The Sting, House of Games, and Ocean's Eleven than it does to the tacked on dénouements of more recent fare.
Edward Burns stars as Jake Vig, a con man who makes a living through others' naïvete. With the help of his talented crew, Gordo (Paul Giamatti), Miles (Brian Van Holt), and Big Al (Louis Lombardi), Jake effortlessly swindles unsuspecting "marks" out of their money through elaborately staged scenarios. When these grifters successfully victimize Lionel Dolby out of a briefcase of cash, they end up in over their head. Dolby turns out to be the accountant for a notorious crime boss known as The King (Dustin Hoffman), a man feared by many. The King learns of Vig's con and demands that Jake reimburses him by pulling off an intricate heist. Failure to comply will cost him his life.
Confidence is one of those movies where I knew how it was going to end within the first 10 minutes. However, the journey proves much more important than the destination, and I was unaware of exactly how it would arrive at its predictable outcome. The enjoyment lies in watching the players set up the pieces, move them strategically, and eventually knock them all down. Director James Foley has certainly not reached the level of majesty he did with David Mamet's lyrical tragedy, Glengarry Glen Ross, but he appears to be having much more fun. He has approached the film with an assured, laid back style, allowing the actors to improvise many of the scenes rather than sticking to the script word for word as was done with Mamet's work. While the screenplay is clichéd and filled with improbability, writer Doug Jung crafts his story with a sly verve, honoring the great films of the crime genre while adding a few new tricks of his own.
The performers really sell the story and allowed me to forget just how implausible it truly is. Edward Burns is particularly good as the shifty con man who implicitly knows how to anticipate the many angles in his intricate schemes. I was amazed, however, to find that the great Dustin Hoffman is the weak link in the chain. In all fairness, he was cast against type at the last minute, but this hardly justifies his wild overacting. King is supposed to be a venomously threatening gangster, yet neither I nor the movie's characters were the least bit intimidated by his shenanigans.
Confidence may not be worthy of any awards, but I certainly found myself entertained by this clever crime caper. Though wholly unbelievable, I found the story to be a wildly enjoyable ride. I cannot ask for much more from a piece of fictional entertainment.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Color is the main standout of this impressive transfer, boasting neon blues, greens, and reds that leap off the screen with stunning vibrancy. The overall image is clear with few limitations that hamper the viewing experience. Edge enhancement is at times evident, and video noise rears its ugly head on occasion, but these deficiencies are rarely distracting. This is an incredibly film-like transfer that is sure to please even the most discerning viewers.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is ridiculously loud to the point of annoyance. I am all for watching a film at its required reference level, but when that level happens to be far too hot, I am uncontrollably compelled to turn the volume down. As a result of the extreme volume level, dynamic range suffers greatly, with dialogue that constantly sounds unnatural, overbearing, and distorted. It is a shame that the soundtrack was mixed this way, because the sound design is quite compelling. The surround channels are frequently used to great effect, often conveying a sense of spaciousness with subtle sounds emanating from all directions. Were it not for the extreme levels, this would be a fantastic soundtrack.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Deleted Scenes
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by director James Foley; writer Doug Jung; Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman
Layers Switch: 01h:13m:58s
- Soundtrack presentation featuring music videos
The Confidence episode of the always entertaining Sundance Channel documentary, Anatomy of a Scene, is also included. James Foley, Doug Jung, and the cast offer a wealth of information behind a pivotal scene that shows how the big heist will go down. Everything about the construction of this scene is discussed, increasing my appreciation for the scene as well as the film.
Next, is a collection of three deleted scenes. While nothing special, I was interested to find that the first entry offers a look at one scene performed multiple times. Featuring Dustin Hoffman, it was enjoyable to watch this great actor gradually make subtle changes to the scene, and even make a flub as well. All three scenes are presented with quality anamorphic widescreen transfers.
The only other inclusion is a commercial for the film's soundtrack, which is followed by two music videos. This is an admirable feature that calls attention to the commendable soundtrack.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsConfidence sets out to offer the audience a good time, and it unquestionably delivers. Though a somewhat bumpy ride, by the end of this con game I did not feel like I was the victim of a bad hustle. A truly satisfying film with an excellent image transfer is enough for me to offer Confidence a strong recommendation.
Brian Calhoun 2003-11-05