Confidence

on March 15, 1981 by Annlee Ellingson
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All of the elements for an entertaining caper--a clever script, enjoyable performances, atmospheric cinematography--are in place in James Foley's "Confidence." Jake Vig (Edward Burns) and his cronies have pulled off yet another relatively small-time con by playacting an exchange gone bad in a dive. Everyone's in on it: the bartender, the witness, the cops, the guy who gets shot. Everyone, that is, except the mark, who leaves his money and runs. Unfortunately, he happens to be an accountant for criminal kingpin Winston King (Dustin Hoffman, as you've never seen him before), who summons Jake to his inner sanctum to arrange payback. Jake agrees to scam a mark of King's choosing in a job worth $5 million.

It's the big time now, and the complicated plan involves bank embezzlement, international border crossings and phobias of public bathrooms. Jake seems to have orchestrated the heist down to the last detail, but will the trait of an easy mark--greed--get the best of him and spiral the con out of control?

Peppered throughout this intricate plotline are quirky characters and wisecracking humor. Hoffman, particularly, is a riot as the gum-popping King, whose strip club serves as a front for his real money-making business. The guy loves the ladies (except if they're sisters who are a little too friendly with each other--he does have standards of decency) and isn't above lewd comments: "Cute little Irish muscle ass you got," he says--to Jake. Burns, meanwhile, has the titular quality in spades and is likable throughout.

Foley and cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia utilize all of the visual conventions of the genre: high-contrast shadows, neon reds, yellows and greens, wipes and freeze frames. The conversations at an outdoor restaurant in which the characters plan the con are shot in close-up but with a zoom lens, so that Los Angeles traffic is constantly buzzing across the frame. The result is a stylistic flair that complements an already mod story. Starring Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, Paul Giamatti and Luis Guzman. Directed by James Foley. Written by Doug Jung. Produced by Marc Butan, Michael Paseornek, Michael Burns and Michael Ohoven. A Lions Gate release. Caper. Rated R for language, violence and sexuality/nudity. Running time: 98 min

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