An electric con artist caper that was completely overlooked at the box office (despite well-done trailers and posters), "Confidence" isn't anything groundbreaking in the genre, but it's still an intelligent picture that's a lot better than most of what's in theaters today. The latest from "Glengarry Glen Ross" director James Foley, "Confidence" stars Ed Burns ("Life or Something Like It"), as Jake Vig, a professional con artist whose team has been working Los Angeles. His problem: the latest scam that took money from an accountant also took money from the accountant's client: a mob boss called "The King" (Dustin Hoffman).
In order to try and pay back the King, Jake and his team - including a new addition, Lily (Rachel Weisz) - attempt to scam a mob-connected banker named Morgan Price (Robert Forster). Problems - of course - happen: an FBI agent named Gunther (Andy Garcia) arrives and starts rounding up those in the know in order to try and catch Jake in the act. There's also Price's lieutenant Travis (Morris Chestnut) to worry about. Of course, double and triple crosses ensue.
"Confidence" isn't as much about the plot as the parts and pieces of the thing. Juan Ruiz Anchia's cinematography is ridiculously beautiful, with deeply saturated neon tones washing over the night streets and rich, crisp colors and interesting, unusual perspectives during the daylight scenes. Unusual flash-forwards and talking to the audience on occasion in the picture work surprisingly well, too; the film's editing, pacing and atmosphere all click into place perfectly and it proceeds with...well, confidence.
As for Ed Burns, many don't seem to have confidence in his acting abilities, but I have to say that, without a doubt, this is his best performance. Sharp, fast-talking and involving, Jake is Burns' most compelling effort. Hoffman's high-speed performance is superb, too; it's impressive that he can make himself convincingly intimidating. The attractive Weisz also has good chemistry with Burns. There's also good supporting efforts from Paul Giamatti, Andy Garcia and others. They all handle Doug Jung's rather Mamet-esque dialogue and characters well.
Again, "Confidence" isn't anything new at its core, but it's one of those movies where the plot isn't original, but everything around it clicks into place so well that the movie becomes an awfully fun ride anyways.
VIDEO: Although some of the presentations by Lion's Gate have improved over the years, I have never really seen an effort by them that was up to the quality of major studio releases. "Confidence", however, is really the best effort of theirs that I've seen. While not without a few minor flaws, this is a very fine 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen offering. Sharpness and detail are first-rate, as the picture appeared crisp, clean and well-defined throughout.
Flaws did appear, but they were fairly minor. A little bit of edge enhancement was noticed in a couple of scenes, while a slight speck or two was noticed on the print. No compression artifacts or other issues were spotted. The film's stunning color palette remained accurately presented throughout, with excellent saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Confidence" is presented by Lion's Gate in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is understandably dialogue-heavy, but some ambience and other minor sound effects are occasionally offered by the surrounds. Christophe Beck's wonderful, subtle score provides a strong backbeat to the picture and sounds rich and crisp. It's mainly offered by the front speakers, but gets occasional reinforcement from the surrounds. Dialogue remained clear and easily understood.
Commentaries: There are three commentary tracks offered: one with actors Ed Burns, Andy Garcia and Dustin Hoffman, as well as actress Rachel Weisz; the next with director James Foley and finally, a track with writer Doug Jung. Weisz and Burns are fun together and offer some amusing tales and insights, while the writer and director commentaries paint a full picture of the development process, casting and the steps of the production process. The commentaries are located under the "setup" menu, not the "extras" section.
Also: Sundance "Anatomy of a Scene" making-of documentary, 11 minutes of Hoffman outtakes and soundtrack presentation (2 music videos). The trailer for "Confidence" and other Lion's Gate title previews are hidden under the company's logo at the bottom of the main menu.
Final Thoughts: Stylish, energetic and fast, I had a great deal of fun with "Confidence", even though I knew I'd seen this done before. The film's DVD offers excellent video quality, good audio and lots of supplements. The movie didn't do particularly well theatrically, but I hope it'll gain a much-deserved audience on video/DVD.
The Film *** 1/2