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Laramie Movie Scope:

A sharp witty con tale

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 5, 2003 -- “Confidence” is a slick, clever, tale about a multi-layered confidence scheme, brimming with sharp dialogue and sharply-defined characters. Although it isn't all that hard to tell where the plot is heading, it has a lot of twists and turns.

Edward Burns of “Saving Private Ryan” stars as Jake Vig, a slick grifter who gets into trouble when he and his team rip off a large amount of money from one Lionel Dolby (played by Leland Orser). It turns out that it wasn't Dolby's money that the grifters took. It belonged to a very nasty mobster named The King (Dustin Hoffman of “Moonlight Mile”). Burns realizes that he has to make things right with The King or he and the rest of his team will be killed by the vengeful mobster. Jake goes to the King and makes a deal. Jake and his team will repay the King what they owe him by ripping off one of the King's rivals, one Morgan Price, who runs a bank that is a front for a mob money-laundering operation. The complicated, risky scam is designed to get the King off their backs, and set them up for life at the same time, if it works. But that is a big if. Lots of things can go wrong in this complex scam.

The first thing that goes wrong is that The King insists that one of his own men be part of the team, so he can monitor what is going on. The King's inside man is Lupus (Franky G. of “The Italian Job”), a mobster who is smarter than the grifters think he is. Another thing that goes wrong is that one of the key members of Jake's team has been killed by The King before the deal was made, so Jake must find a replacement. He chooses a slick pickpocket named Lily (Rachel Weisz of “About a Boy”). She is smart and sexy, but doesn't know much about confidence schemes. The other team members are unsure she can do the job, particularly after she dyes her hair red (a sign of bad luck among grifters). The other team members are inside man Gordo (Paul Giamatti of “Big Fat Liar”), a shill named Miles (Brian Van Holt of “Black Hawk Down”) and two corrupt LAPD officers Whitworth (Donal Logue of “The Tao of Steve”) and Manzano (Luis Guzman of “The Count of Monte Cristo”). Another thing that goes wrong is Jake's old nemesis, a federal agent named Gunther Butan (Andy Garcia of “Ocean's 11”), suddenly shows up and starts sniffing around the edges of the scam. Butan is clever and tenacious, and he is closing in on Jake.

The script, by Doug Jung has sharp dialogue and it creates memorable (and refreshingly adult) characters. It is very reminiscent of David Mamet's scripts. Dustin Hoffman steals every scene he is in. He is smart, sleazy and has a very dangerous edge. He always seems right on the edge of violence, but has a disarming sense of humor. Hoffman has helped to create a very memorable and unique character in The King, and he seems to be having great fun in the process. Ed Burns is smooth and confident in his role as the master scam artist. Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as the nervous, smart, germ-obsessed grifter. Supporting roles are ably filled, especially by Franky G. who appears to be an actor on the verge of stardom. Donal Logue and Luis Guzman are also quite good. Director James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) gets the tone of the film just right. It has suspense, but it is also tongue-in-cheek funny at the same time. It is great fun, as well as being suspenseful, smart and sassy. It rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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