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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.03%
Worth A Look34.86%
Average: 11.93%
Pretty Bad: 7.34%
Total Crap: 12.84%

9 reviews, 55 user ratings

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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
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by Erik Childress

"Clooney...Kaufman...Barris...Rockwell. 'Nuff Said!"
5 stars

An unauthorized autobiography. Let that sink in for a moment. Unauthorized by whom? If the author is the one whose life it is based on, then what’s unauthorized about it? Is it a joke, a clever ruse used to tear apart the pretentiousness of celebrities sharing their lives with those they think care? Or something more sinister, like telling secrets to the one person you don’t tell secrets to? Namely the American public who may have a fascination with the powerful and cultish celebrities, but shouldn’t be let in to see the man behind the curtain that is the CIA. Our great and powerful wizard is none other than Chuck Barris. That’s right, the host of The Gong Show who claims to have been a freelance assassin while creating what is essentially the beginning of trash television. Fact or fiction?

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, perhaps still reeling from trying to adapt “The Orchid Thief” into a movie (the brilliant Adaptation was the result) just went with a straightforward adaptation of Barris’ memoirs. No mocking, no “what ifs” and no possibility of grandeur delusion except at the very base motivations of the Barris on screen. Director George Clooney and Kaufman tell the story in strict biopic fashion as if this was the way events actually occurred.

We already had the TV star-as-horndog biopic, Auto Focus, a sly retelling of the events leading up to the murder of Hogan’s Heroes’ Bob Crane. Apparently, Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell)would also do just about anything for a roll-in-the-hay. What better way than to become a celebrity? Writing a hit song may pay the bills, but nobody knows the writer until you either wield power behind-the-scenes or get in front of the camera. As on-air success eludes him, Barris is approached by CIA agent Jim Byrd (Clooney) who tells him that his “profile” makes him a perfect recruit for his country.

Under the nose of girlfriend, Penny (Drew Barrymore), Barris trains to kill resulting in secret missions before television comes-a-calling once again. His pet project, "The Dating Game", is a go which ultimately presents a perfect cover for him on later missions as a chaperone for winners to exotic locales like...West Berlin. (The initial setup for this results in two of the funniest cameos of the year.) Through his confrontations with fellow agents, Patricia (Julia Roberts) and Keeler (Rutger Hauer), Barris is torn between the dangerous, sickening feeling that he may not be serving his country (but the interests of select groups) and the psychological frenzy built up inside him for years that gives him a real taste for this work.

Americans love violence...when its fake. Movies and television provide that outlet for us. Instead of punching the wall or a fellow human being, we can turn on something and watch the villain get his comuppance and feel totally satisfied; a displaced river of frustration stemming from the everyday hustle and bustle of actually living. The Chuck Barris of Confessions (whether true-to-life or not) becomes a rather iconic representation of America; each of us striving for the opportunity to be seen or heard in a famous setting. That’s the “profile” of nearly all Americans at one time or another.

This brings joy and laughter,” says Barris at one point of his shows (which also included "The Newlywed Game"), shows “based on the idea that every American would sell out their spouse for a kitchen appliance or a lawnmower you can ride.” So why would anyone watching "The Gong Show" scoff at its host rubbing out a few unsavories in his spare time? Clooney is so assured in his directorial debut, that we never stop to question its accuracy. We revel and laugh at its absurdity and then laugh a second time when we consider that what we’re watching may be fact; something nobody can do watching shows today like Jerry Springer and Fear Factor.

Clooney has everything under control here from the storytelling to the steady hand of a director with an eye of confidence for the cinema. The presentation of Kaufman’s screenplay slowly builds on the unexpected that we probably should have seen coming. Sequences are beautifully put together, individual shots standout (one by Barris’ swimming pool is a knockout) and revelations involving Chuck’s “profile” and a potential mole in the agency are expertly timed. Not to be outdone by Clooney the director, Clooney the actor also delivers a first-rate performance.

But this film belongs to Sam Rockwell. You know Sam Rockwell. You’ve seen him in countless other hit movies (The Green Mile, Charlie’s Angels, Galaxy Quest, Heist), after this you will remember his name. Foregoing the striking resemblance between the two, it’s impossible to watch Rockwell dance on the set of The Gong Show without tapping into some buried remembrance of the actual show. There’s a flippancy to Rockwell’s portrayal and a conveyance of paranoia that keeps us on edge to how he’ll react to the characters in the film we like.

How Rockwell and the filmmakers make us feel about Barris is another matter. There is no real sense of a good-or-bad attitude towards his behavior. Our minds can be made up about others by a single dispicable act and with Barris it’s a toss-up between infidelity and murder. The Barris of Confessions sees himself as some noirish anti-hero, making America a better place by cleaning up its problems or making us forget about them with reality-based game shows. A single shot in a hotel room late in the film sums it up beautifully, complete with the conquering cigarette puff.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is as entertaining as movies come, full of life (and death), a great sense of humor and even the right tinge of suspense for good measure. In years to come, it will rank alongside daft biopics like "Ed Wood", "Man on the Moon" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt"; all of them stories about people who either wanted to entertain the world or just known for giving it a shot. It’s hard to justify what’s real anymore on television. Reality isn’t really reality anymore, even seeping into how we view documentaries and the news itself. Who’s to say what Barris is telling us isn’t the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Even if its not, isn’t this what we all want to see anyway?

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/27/02 17:08:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/13/13 Jeff Wilder Doesn't totally work. But ambitious and entertaining enough to merit a viewing. 4 stars
12/05/08 K. Sear Quirky and witty just as we have come to expect from Kaufman. 4 stars
11/26/08 Leo T alot of fun, screwed up plot...but in the best possible way 5 stars
8/01/08 Monday Morning Tried to watch this twice, only got 20 minutes in twice. Terrible. 2 stars
11/19/07 Erica Munro Worst movir I ever saw!!!! 1 stars
7/24/07 fools♫gold Total romantic bullshit with devilish feel-good music and a damned killer! 5 stars
12/14/06 R.W.Welch Hard to take seriously but a good yarn nonetheless. Rockwell right on. 4 stars
11/14/06 AJ Muller Clooney-the real deal; Rockwell-phenomenally gifted. Immensely entertaining and fun. 5 stars
8/18/05 ES do you like movies that are crazy and don't mean a thing? = then watch this! 1 stars
8/06/05 Zack Great film! 5 stars
5/07/05 Naka WOW! 5 stars
12/17/04 Ken Cenerelli Complex study of a true spy or man with dementia. 4 stars
12/08/04 frosty Seemed to drag. 3 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands No one saw it, so they all SUCK! One of the most well-crafted movies of recent memory. 5 stars
8/13/04 Rocky A boring and ridiculous lie about a loser I didn't care about. Waste of time. 1 stars
5/13/04 Mickey With A C A must see 5 stars
5/06/04 Ken Rockwell should have got the Best Actor Oscar! 5 stars
4/17/04 Alex Fun and weird. Rockwell is sublime. 5 stars
4/16/04 The More You Know like nic cage's Sonny, if Sonny acted out his own fantasies...clooney directs a lil' better 3 stars
4/15/04 gordon purcell Imaginative direction, always interesting and Rockwell does a great GONG SHOW Barris 4 stars
4/15/04 Charlene Javier Good but not great! 3 stars
2/25/04 Soulis Rockwell as Barris is as good as DeNiro playing Jake Lamotta 5 stars
12/31/03 mercie its full of crappp 1 stars
10/15/03 Jinnvisible Not Bad ... ................................................................Just Average 3 stars
10/07/03 mike this movie kicks ass...seriously cool 5 stars
9/30/03 B P 1 stars
8/10/03 John Bale Dark comedy in candy floss colour, not always on target but a good directorial debut. 4 stars
7/06/03 macaulay culkin II the very most exciting film ever seen 5 stars
6/24/03 Chris It's a great movie 5 stars
5/17/03 George Jung Great directing wasted on a shit script. 3 stars
5/17/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!) Probably THE greatest directorial debut for an actor so far in history! 4 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III brilliant. 5 stars
3/16/03 GD Williamson Almost preposterously good. Walked out of the theatre beaming. 5 stars
3/13/03 nick2k very nice...i like the cinematography alot. very noir... 5 stars
2/27/03 Vangela annoyingly smug. clooney has become unbearable. the new "rat pack" is a joke. 2 stars
2/19/03 Frodoshairytoes Great movie - Clooney is a god! 5 stars
2/18/03 Banshee Incredible all around...Rockwell deserves that Silver Bear he won in Berlin this weekend. 5 stars
2/05/03 Andrew Arnold Best movie i've seen since 5 stars
2/04/03 john great 5 stars
2/04/03 jimmybigglesworth Lot's of subtle stuff. I'd like to see it again soon. 4 stars
2/04/03 puckfreak Very entertaining!!! 4 stars
2/03/03 Zeitgeist Great acting...though the characters don't s Chuck Barris is the asshole you hate to love. 4 stars
2/03/03 Angie R A good death scene at the end and nice rental... 3 stars
2/01/03 dan interesting story, well packaged and great acting 4 stars
1/28/03 ruethewhirl it's a floor wax, and a dessert topping! 5 stars
1/28/03 Jenga Fascinating, really got me thinking about today's entertainment industry. 5 stars
1/28/03 J. F. Murphy Sam Rockwell is great, everyone else sleepwalks . A bad joke of a flick. The pits. 1 stars
1/27/03 Brian Great Cast, Strange Story, Well Presented 5 stars
1/25/03 Jake Could the cast be more annoying? Waste o'time 1 stars
1/23/03 Empress of Misrule Needed more Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine! 4 stars
1/15/03 Ayla Khan funny and bent enough to be interesting 4 stars
1/06/03 Caiphn M&R: Then why rate it, fucktards? 3 stars
1/02/03 Craig Shiner HORRIBLE 1 stars
12/28/02 Matt and Rob Haven't seen it, but it looks good! 5 stars
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  31-Dec-2002 (R)



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