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Director James Foley is known largely for his work in adapting David Mamet’s stage-play script into an incredible, if talky, feature film. The piece in question is Glengarry Glen Ross, arguably a more accomplished look at dodgy salesman than Wall Street ever was. The ensemble cast featuring the likes of Pacino, Spacey and Alec Baldwin at his best went a long way to ensuring Glengarry’s success. The same can be said for Confidence, another of Foley’s projects featuring some big names in its line-up. Not that you could be too confident about the film’s success, considering Foley has only the dubious Fear and lackluster buddy cop flick The Corruptor in his resume. Nevertheless, surely more than ten years’ experience following his best work could produce another Foley gem.

Confidence
Movie
The con artist/heist genre has been through a lot in recent times, from the polished Ocean’s Eleven to the Italian Job remake, with plenty of weaker films in between. You know how the story goes, starting with a cast of confident characters, an elaborate set up and a twisty pay-off that justifies all the tension and drama before it. In the end it’s obvious who is going to win after everything has been played out. Most of the fun involves getting there.

Early on in the piece we meet Jake Vig (Edward Burns), a dapper, self-assured con artist who is just about to pull off the heist of his life. But of course, a single conman can’t do much without a loyal crew to fall in line. Standing right behind him is neurotic yet aggressive Gordo (Paul Giamatti), followed by the cocky young Miles (Brian Van Holt, popping up everywhere in recent times). And when Jake ropes in the gorgeous Lily (Rachel Weisz) after the traditional tête-à-tête and sexual tension between the pair, you know there’s enough weight behind the plot to really kick things off.

The crew’s first con involved the simple set-up and swindling of a pre-determined mark. But when the mark turns up dead and one of the crew cops a bullet in the skull the depth of their trouble is revealed. It turns out the money from the con belonged to a notorious criminal boss who calls himself “The King” (Dustin Hoffman). So the big heist has to rake in enough cash to appease the King as well as split up handsomely among the rest of the team. Do the words “double-cross” mean anything to you?

What ensues is a relatively fun ride, with the obligatory twists and turns keeping you on your toes for the duration. Edward Burns cruises through the role, which admittedly is really nothing more than a cocky persona and an Armani suit. Weisz is serviceable as the femme fatale of the bunch, though between this and Runaway Jury she’s in danger of being pigeon-holed into the “tough pretty girl” role from here on in. The other cast members give us the necessary contrast for a heist flick, particularly Hoffman, who sleazes it up the whole way yet still manages to convey a real sense of menace. His character is meant to be a pretty powerful, scary figure and we manage to see it in his actions thanks to Hoffman’s take on The King. Andy Garcia is probably the surprise packet, playing a shifty detective on the trail of the con artists. It’s an interesting role which renders Garcia somewhat unrecognisable even when you get a peek under that hat of his.  

Confidence
The narrative is where the film is slightly let down, mainly due to the perceived need to tell everything using either flashbacks or a voiceover from Jake. Right from the outset you know where things are headed because we are shown scenes towards the end before the beginning has been even played out. The payoff at the end is quite cute and fitting for this kind of film, but really we all know how these things work thanks to the countless other similar films that have gone before it. There’s enough originality and creativity to suffice, but the story isn’t quite there to make this anything more than a solid couple of hours entertainment.

Video
The colour palette is probably the most remarkable aspect of the video presentation. It was an obvious attempt on behalf of Foley and his buddies to litter the frame with incredibly bright, vibrant colours among some solid blacks. Just look at the costumes, locations and even the choice of lighting style to show you how much colour plays a part in the mood of the film. Thankfully the 2.35:1 transfer doesn’t let us down, with all the colours coming up darn well on the disc.

Visual nasties don’t rear their ugly head all that often, with only some minor aliasing to worry about over the course of the film. Sharpness is quite good, although one could suggest a two-disc set could have freed up some valuable room to lift up the visual clarity on the film a little. Still, it’s definitely a good looking disc.

Audio
As with the other slick-looking heist flick, Ocean’s Eleven, a jazz based musical soundtrack becomes the centrepiece for the audio mix on the disc. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix handles the music quite nicely, although there’s really little else for it to do. Dialogue sits firmly in the front but is clear at all times, while only a few little effects and ambient sounds make their way to the rear speakers. The sub-woofer is pretty much unheard of for the most part, which is a shame because a little more of a bass-driven mix would have suited this film to perfection. That said, however, there’s certainly nothing wrong with this mix considering the kind of mood the filmmakers are trying to portray.

Extras
We don’t get the extra disc which could well have been on the table early on, but there’s still enough here to keep one busy for a while. The first track with Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia and Dustin Hoffman. It seems Burns and Weisz are in the same room for their commentary, while Hoffman and Garcia recorded their parts singularly for their major scenes. The track doesn’t seem too disjointed and it is especially interesting to hear what Burns and Weisz have to say about their characters. The highlight is Burns telling a story of how James Foley got upset with the cast laughing during one of their scenes.

The second commentary track is with Doug Jung, the writer of the film. He begins with a quick timeline of how the movie came about and moves on to how the characters changed from the paper to the screen. Jung communicates quite well, though one would think there’s only so much you can take of a writer’s commentary in all but the most exceptional cases.

Confidence
The director’s commentary with James Foley sits somewhere in between the other two in terms of entertainment value. Foley talks about anything and everything, from the way they shot and edited certain scenes to some shortcuts they took during shooting. There are some pauses here and there in this track which are disappointing, because for the most part Foley’s comments really do add value to the film if you enjoyed it first time.

Moving away from the commentary tracks, we also have a Sundance Channel featurette, including the familiar Anatomy Of A Scene section. The scene in question involves the crux of the story, where Jake introduces two new members of the team to his buddies and outlines the major heist and how they will go about it. There’s even a look at The Sting and how it influenced Doug Jung when writing the film. The 25-minute piece also looks at other aspects of the production such as editing, casting and the screenplay. A good little piece that is a cut above the press kit fluff we’ve all seen before.

The deleted scenes section contains a few good moments that could well have made their way into the final version. The five-minute collection plays out continuously but each scene is worth a look so it’s not too much of a problem. The standout is the first cut scene between Jake and Lily in bed, and not because Rachel Weisz looks absolutely stunning.

Rounding out the collection of extras is the interviews section, taken from the press junket with director James Foley and the key cast members of the production. What is interesting about the way they are handled, however, is that you see and hear the interviewer asking the questions rather than witnessing an edited version of just the actor’s responses. The questions take up a large chunk of the time for each of the interviews so you don’t get as much of each actor (and Foley) as you would think, but they are all still well worth a look. There is also the theatrical trailer includedas well as trailers for upcoming releases People I Know, Out Of Time and Lost In Translation.

So often you get extras packages that look quite meaty but turn out to be very light on content. This time it’s completely the opposite. What looks to be a pretty paltry selection of extras results in three interesting commentary tracks, a very good making of featurette and some other small bits and pieces that make this a worthwhile collection to keep you interested after the film has played out.

Confidence
Overall
No matter what happens in the story, con artist films inevitably entertain more often than they disappoint. The slick story created by Confidence is no exception, though the fun only goes so far before a few little gripes get in the way of making this one great. Still a solid piece of entertainment overall, backed up well by a very polished looking transfer, a jazzed up audio mix and a collection of extras that surprised in its quality. Your collection won’t suffer if you pick up this neat little package some time soon.


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