The movie “Confidence,” starring Edward Burns, Andy Garcia and Dustin Hoffman, is yet another manufactured story proving, once again, that if you’re smarter than your predecessors, crime can, and does pay.
In his first screenplay, writer Doug Jung paints an incredible but familiar story: a group of thieves, consisting of Burns, Paul Giamatti and Brian Van Holt, are skilled at the art of deception. Their gig underhandedly stealing money and preying on the greed of other’s pays off big time. That is, until the money they’ve stolen is from mob boss “The King,” who is played by Hoffman.
In retaliation, The King murders the “shill” in the operation, one of Burns’ close friends. This sets the stage for the rest of the movie. In an effort to prevent further bloodshed, Burns agrees to do a job for The King in order to repay the money Burns admittedly, but mistakenly, took.
The movie, complete with femme fatale Lily (Rachel Weisz) and government gumshoe Gunter Butan (Garcia), plays out much like a jack-in-the-box. But once the music stops, you don’t know what will explode out of the box.
Much in the same fashion of the movie “The Usual Suspects,” “Confidence” is written in order to suck the audience in the with the perspective the movie conveys, always leaving out small pieces of intricate detail until the end when these details are encapsulated in one scene.
What else would you expect with the opening of a movie whose lead character narrates the fact that he’s dead, and the audience is shown his dead body lying in the middle of the street?
While the movie did have a surprise twist ending, the one element of this film I found particularly enjoyable was the editing. Now, I’m not usually one to pay attention to such things, or even care for that matter, but I noticed early on this was a critical tool of engaging my interest even further. “Confidence” is narrated much in the same fashion as “The Usual Suspects.” The editing created a strong sense of identity for the audience, allowing full participation in the action on screen.
Of the cast in the movie, Hoffman and Giamatti are the real stars. Hoffman portrays this “new age,” sensitive mob boss. He portrays this character with a true passion for evil. Much in the same way he portrays the inner workings of all of the characters he plays, as in “Rain Man” or “Tootsie,” or even as far back as “The Graduate,” Hoffman shines as a deranged power-thirsty murderer who has style.
Giamatti (“Big Fat Liar”) also is brilliant in this movie. He plays one of Burns’ sidekicks, “Gordo,” who has, among other maladies, a fear of using public bathrooms. Challenged with bringing much of the movie’s comic relief, Giamatti commands audience attention with his intense and, at times, almost silly seriousness. Again, the audience first sees this character lying dead on the floor of a bar during a grift.
Of the remaining cast of characters, none are particularly noteworthy. Weisz (“The Mummy”) gives a rather bored performance, as does Burns. Perhaps they, too, are tired of the same old story and plot line this movie conveys.
With every movie that’s made about bank robbing or heists, something always goes wrong. And in historic fashion, there is always someone who thinks the system can be beat. The key ingredients for success in “Competition” are guts, brains, a plan, and of course, the money.