I knew this film was in trouble when Ed Burns began talking to the camera during the opening credits. This wasn't going to be another self-consciously hip portrayal of comic-book gangsters, was it? Well, this hyper-stylized crime movie IS that, though in all fairness it does offer some incidental pleasures.Burns plays slick grifter Jake Vig; he's trying to pull off a once-in-a-lifetime heist behind the back of crime boss King (Dustin Hoffman). You may have noticed that both characters have stupid "symbolic" names, but this is the least of screenwriter Doug Jung's problems. His script has the fatal taint of a work based not on life but on other movies--it gives CONFIDENCE an unreal, self-referential quality. This isn't necessarily such a bad thing, of course. How realistic was PULP FICTION--surely one of Jung's favorites--to name one example? But PULP FICTION did create its own world, while CONFIDENCE just seems like one big parlor trick.
Jung just isn't as clever as he thinks he is; his one-liners usually don't snap like they're clearly supposed to, and his attempts to create "colorful" characters (King is bisexual AND has Attention Deficit Disorder) seem mighty forced. He can share some of the blame with director James Foley, who tries altogether too hard for flashy style. (One quick montage sequence actually reminded me of some of Jeunet's stunts in AMELIE.) Likewise, the editing is too choppy; it looks like there are about twice as many cuts as necessary. Whenever you try to get a good look at somebody's face, you can be sure it'll cut away instantly.
A fake movie, basically, but like many fake movies it's fitfully amusing. Hoffman has rarely seemed so menacing as he does here. Though he's playing a supporting part, this is in many ways his movie.CONFIDENCE is a pale imitation of much better movies. (Jung probably digs GET SHORTY too, now that I think of it.) It's not terrible. You just can't get up much enthusiasm for it.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.