Flashback movies depend upon a voice-over commentary. This loses the point of moving pictures. When words become more important than visuals, you are borrowing from a literary tradition: I say, therefore I do.

There is too much yakity-yak in Confidence. It starts at the end and then says, "This is how we got here," beginning with the denouement and rewinding through a series of snapshot memories.

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It is the story of a grifter. The first person narrative explains the intricacy of scams, as if teaching teenage kids how to become confidence tricksters, which may be fascinating for those who understand nothing of sophisticated crime, but let's analyse the story for a moment and see whose fooling whom.

Jake (Edward Burns) comes to LA with his crew (Paul Giamatti, Brian Van Holt, Louis Lombardi) for the purpose of conning big buckeroonies out of money launderers and their ilk. He seems to have commandeered the services of two LAPD detectives (Luis Guzman, Donal Logue) as backup. He's a slick operator, who relies on old-fashioned Irish charm, a high dosage of self-belief and a sharp mind.

Somewhere along the way, he picks up a girl (Rachel Weisz), who proves to be more than a pretty face. He knows you can't trust women, or bankers, but having a babe on board can be useful when it comes to seducing the patsy.

After relieving a minion of half a million, by means that can only be described as ingenious, he comes up against Mr King (Dustin Hoffman), the unpredictable, possibly psychopathic, gang boss, who believes in the philosophy of George W, "If you're not w'th us, yo'r 'gin us."

Jake understands that to give the impression of compliance is more beneficial in terms of life expectancy than open warfare. Meanwhile, an unshaven man (Andy Garcia), who may be a Federal agent, arrives in town looking for Jake. The heat is on.

Clever thrillers that flirt with film noir are always welcome, but this is too smart for its own good. The double/triplecrossing confuses and if you don't know who to trust, you're in the hands of the scriptwriter (Doug Jung). You have to believe to care.

Burns is authoritative, one step away from stardom. Weisz could never play a bimbo - she's too intelligent. Hoffman seems incapable of slipping into a role, in the way that Robert DeNiro does, without adding his own touches. The result is that Mr King seems to have dropped off the planet Gonzo.

And then there is that voice, commentating on the machinations of an elaborate sting, in case you haven't being paying attention.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2003
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Confidence trickery in LA, featuring a gang of smarty pants versus a very odd Dustin Hoffman.
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Jennie Kermode *1/2

Director: James Foley

Writer: Doug Jung

Starring: Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, Morris Chestnut, Leland Oser, Louis Lombardi, Paul Giamatti, Brian Van Holt, Donal Logue, Luis Guzman

Year: 2003

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Canada/Germany


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