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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 The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Hit the gong"
2 stars

John Denver was a hitman for the CIA. That was an urban legend in circulation back when the irrepressibly cheerful country boy who crooned “Rocky Mountain High” was still recording hit singles. The perverse wit of the rumor derived from the simple fact that Denver was the last man on Earth you’d suspect of being a gunman. I think that’s what GONG SHOW impresario Chuck Barris had in mind when he wrote his “unauthorized autobiography” CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, originally published in 1982. All those years when Barris was producing sleazy, tacky TV shows, he was leading a double life—he claimed—as a CIA operative, knocking off enemies of the U.S. government. I don’t believe there’s an ounce of truth in this, but I admire Barris for fucking with our heads. It’s a brilliant joke. Of course, I can’t be certain that he really wasn’t pumping lead into people all over Europe, but even the title seems to imply otherwise: Chuck Barris may be dangerous—but only in his mind.

One of the unlikiest biopics to hit theatres in some years, CONFESSIONS offers Barris’ story at face value, with occasional winks at the audience. That’s the problem, I think: it takes a generally literal approach to material that needed another angle of attack.

All the time I watched this movie, I couldn’t quite grasp why I wasn’t liking it. Part of it was Clooney’s overbearing directorial style—the film is so full of cute match cuts, unnecessary close-ups, and similar business that you want to open up a window for fresh air. It’s just so needlessly busy, as if Clooney were applying for film school and wanted to show off his comprehensive knowledge of movie grammar. On occasion it becomes quite literally disorienting—are we getting a close-up of Rockwell’s nose because his nasal hairs carry symbolic significance? Or is that simply his best feature?

But the big problem is that CONFESSIONS basically plays it straight, too straight. Clooney frames the movie as a documentary, with “interview” segments (less clever, in this age of nonstop “Behind the Music” specials, than he probably thought). To be sure, he does have a sense of the comic possibilities of the material—for example, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon show up for a hilarious visual joke—but the comedy seems incidental.

The source material, Barris’ gonzo autobiography, is essentially a huge double-take. The effectiveness of the joke (and, yes, I think it is a joke) depends on the fact that Barris’ public image is completely at odds with his alleged spy-game escapades. It presents an alternate version of a story we thought we already knew. In this film, we needed to have to have a solid impression of the game show-Barris—humble, neurotic Jewish boy made good by exploiting mankind’s foibles—before we could appreciate the twist of hitman-Barris. But here there’s no twist. It’s all presented chronologically. Young Barris climbs the Hollywood ladder, and, oh yeah, he becomes a hitman. The comic contrast between his two lives isn’t emphasized nearly enough. For the material to make proper sense, it had to have been treated as a “shocking” faux expose, i.e., this is what you thought Barris was, and this is what he—allegedly—really is.

The spy sequences are often muddled. It’s not always clear exactly who is supposed to be doing what to whom. Not that it matters much, of course; if anything, there’s too much bang-bang stuff. Acting is fine. Rockwell is rather colorless as the assassin/producer, but that’s only fitting. Drew Barrymore is very good as his on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Late in the film, as Rockwell wallowed in angsty gloom over his failing relationship with his girlfriend, I finally realized where I’d seen this before: It’s almost the same plot, minus the hitman angle, as the notorious 1980 bomb THE GONG SHOW MOVIE. Hell, they even recycled one of the Unknown Comic’s jokes from that movie (I won’t spoil it, but it involves toilet paper and a shower curtain). Two decades later, we have another movie in theatres about Chuck Barris’ midlife crisis, and the material has not improved much with age. If you peel away CONFESSIONS’ spy bullshit, you could conceivably read it as an aging man’s wistful goodbye to both the glamorous Hollywood life he never really had and the James Bond-ish made-up life he perhaps wishes he had. That is, in fact, what the final scene hints at. But a lot of executives in Hollywood would kill for some of the credits on Barris’ resume, and the movie never satisfactorily explains why he’s so unhappy with his life and his career.

CONFESSIONS isn’t terrible, but it could have been so much more.

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originally posted: 02/02/03 14:18:15
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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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