Confidence

James Foley, director of the new caper film Confidence, at least had the courtesy to keep this woefully unoriginal thriller to a manageable 98 minutes and a reasonably succinct plot line. As it is, audiences will be puzzling over why they spent good money on a drama that’s strictly the stuff of syndicated TV (though admittedly saltier), and much worse than the classy dramas that have become commonplace on cable these days.

Another conundrum – possibly the most interesting conflict associated with the film — is why respectable folks such as Dustin Hoffman and Andy Garcia agreed to do the movie, a study in mediocrity that takes cues from sources as varied as Quentin Tarantino and "Starsky and Hutch." (Note the attempts at wacky, stylized dialogue and the fact that every other scene is set in a sleazy bar or strip joint.) Confidence isn’t as terrible as it is dull. There’s nothing offensive, because there’s simply not much there.

It’s the tepid story of Los Angeles grifters, none of whom has a semblance of a personality, who live strictly for the money — not for the fun or satisfaction they take in carrying out their intricately planned con games. The same lack of joy and humor is what sets the tone of these pedestrian proceedings.

Edward Burns is Jake, the studly, fast-talking leader of a team that does a job that goes wrong when one of his teammates is found dead at home, having taken a bullet in the chest between bites of kung pao chicken. But instead of taking revenge on the perpetrator, a squirrelly, perverted, not quite big-time con-man King (Hoffman, back in the type of twitching role he does so well), Jake decides to go in with him and split the spoils of another, higher-stakes scam on a third party.

To pull off the new job, Jake rounds out his group — Gordo (Paul Giamatti), Miles (Brian Van Holt), corrupt cops Whitworth (Donal Logue) and Manzano (Luis Guzman) –- with Lily, (Rachel Weisz), a luscious stranger who hangs around in con-artist circles and just happens to be highly skilled and up to the task at hand.

Meanwhile, federal agent Gunther Butan (Garcia, who even looks embarrassed and can’t quite ham it up to satisfaction playing what’s clearly supposed to be a kooky character) catches up with Jake’s police cohorts. He puts pressure on them as well as a wrench into the nicely developing scheme to fraudulently collect a $5 million business bank loan.

Director Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) and the actors muster up one mildly interesting scene when the group puts the nail into one of their "marks," a middle-aged loan officer whom they need to facilitate a money transfer. Pretending to be a sexy young businesswoman looking for funding for a startup company, Lily finds the fellow in a bar, buys him a drink, and entices him to join her pals at dinner, where the gang hooks him. For just a few minutes, at least everyone in the cast, (and possibly writer Doug Jung) is enjoying the thrill of the con. Too bad nobody else is.

– Leslie Katz

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