Despite Dustin Hoffman as a sleazy gangster, Confidence doesn’t inspire much
James Foley’s Confidence aspires to a worldly sort of film-noir cool, but even with its solid cast of grungy crime-film types, this fancifully flashy scam-and-heist flick gets only steadily diminishing returns out of its jejune script and frivolously convoluted plot.
The thing begins and ends in a semi-chaotic welter of flashbacks, flash-forwards and replays. In between, it wangles its way through an almost linear tale in which con artist Jake Vig (Ed Burns) sets up a high-finance scam that will permit him to mollify a sleazy L.A. crime boss known as “the King” (Dustin Hoffman), some of whose cash he has just taken, unknowingly, in the low-ball scam that opens the film.
Burns’ Jake is the hard-boiled smart guy leading a small and ostensibly motley “crew” of variously smart-mouthed grifters—his buddies Gordo (Paul Giamatti) and Miles (Brian Van Holt), a comely pickpocket (Rachel Weisz), and Lupus (Franky G), the King’s designated watchdog. A couple of buffoonishly corrupt cops (Donal Logue and the ever reliable Luis Guzman) are in the mix as well, soon to be joined by a scruffy-looking federal agent named Gunther Butan (Andy Garcia).
First-time screenwriter Doug Jung serves up a transparent pastiche of Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, et al., and succeeds only in saddling the film with an absurdly complicated structure and an over-reliance on Burns’ impossibly glib voiceover narration. And the dialog is worse—apart from Hoffman, who reportedly improvised a good deal of his character’s kinky quips, the characters talk and behave like cynical college students who’ve experienced little apart from the crime stories they’ve seen in movies and TV.
Even Hoffman’s credible account of “the King” as SoCal sleaze and sub-Hollywood pervert gets diluted by the film-school flippancy of the story that Foley and Jung have concocted here. Maybe the biggest scam of all in Confidence is the film itself.