Film Reviews: Wednesday, April 24, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Catch Me

All an entertaining little movie needs is a little Confidence, man.

By KRISTIAN LIN

You are a great grifter, man,” marvels one character as he studies the coolly impassive face of Confidence’s main character, Jake Vig (Edward Burns). “It’s hard to tell when you’re lying.” The nice thing is, it’s hard for us, too. That’s because this movie about con artists is properly cagey about its casting, using Burns’ inexpressiveness to its advantage. This is one way for a filmmaker to handle a pretty-boy lead actor with a smooth delivery but limited emotional range — by casting him as a shady, untrustworthy guy who’ll talk you right out of your old-age money and your grandmother’s jewelry. You could easily imagine Ben Affleck in this role, or Leonardo DiCaprio, or the younger Richard Gere. The filmmakers help their leading man further by surrounding him with colorful character actors and an even less-expressive hunk (Brian Van Holt) to make the star look sharper. That’s how Burns carries off this lowbrow piece of entertainment in such style.

As the movie begins, Jake is being held at gunpoint by a henchman (Morris Chestnut) of a corrupt banker (Robert Forster). In flashback and in hardened wiseguy dialogue, Jake tells the story of how he and his freelance crew of con artists (Van Holt and Paul Giamatti) bilked the wrong man out of some money. The actors bring the team’s dynamic to life well, with Giamatti standing out in his customary role as worry-wart and wisecracker.

Meanwhile, Jake winds up needing the help of a hot pickpocket named Lily (Rachel Weisz), whom he’s just met on the street. That’s because his gang’s mark turned out to be a courier carrying the cash on behalf of crime lord Winston “The King” King (Dustin Hoffman). The King’s willing to forgive the gang’s theft if they agree to help him steal a few million dollars from the banker. With a few days’ worth of stubble, a loud and shabby wardrobe, and his short hair in a Don King-like shock, Hoffman comes close to stealing this film away. (He certainly overwhelms the perfunctory romance between Burns and Weisz.) You can almost smell the layer of grease covering this old lech who abuses his power by coming on to everyone sexually — in a single meeting, he gropes Lily and closes the deal with Jake by sticking his face as close to Jake’s as possible and sultrily whispering, “Say it like you like me.”

Confidence reaches its peak in a scene where the grifters target a mid-level bank manager (John Carroll Lynch) as part of their scheme. The air oozes with the fake camaraderie created just for this lonely guy, and The King’s muscleman (Franky G) stuns everyone with his detailed analysis of the dot-com bust. All credit should go to the actors (including Andy Garcia as a sleazy federal agent, and Luis Guzmán and Donal Logue, so well-matched you could cry, as two crooked cops) and to director James Foley, who, having previously directed Glengarry Glen Ross, seems quite at home amid shifty characters played by a standout cast.


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