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"Movie Review: Confidence"" (***)"

Scratching An Itch With Confidence

The Spectrum

With a plot similar to that of "The Score" and "Heist," and a narrative technique that brings to mind "Get Shorty" minus that film's comedy, Director James Foley's "Confidence" is the latest in the ever-growing line of scam films.

Edward Burns stars as Jake Vig, a stylish con man unable to resist what he calls "the itch" - the desire to score big off of any scam he can pull. He's not the only one, and after he and his crew scam a local crime king (Dustin Hoffman) for $150,000 they realize that to keep from getting killed they're going to have to replace the money. The King assigns Lupus (Franky G.) to work with the scam artists, and Jake finds the stunning Lily (Rachel Weisz) to draw in their mark for the $5 million plot.

The complications in the plot are dictated by the form of the film, meaning that while there are surprises and startling moments of reversal, the revelations that come out are - for students of the heist genre - likely predictable.

The key to enjoying "Confidence" is sitting back and enjoying the ride screenwriter Doug Jung has put together.

Clever exchanges of dialogue bring some of the film's highlights. At one point, Jake approaches Lily to ask if she'd "like some work," only to have her respond that he couldn't afford her. The icing on the cake of the conversation is Jake's response:

"I've never had to pay for that ... and I don't consider it work."

Hoffman, as many of the ads have stated, is nothing short of brilliant in his role as the King. Whether he's ranting at a pair of incestuous "sisters" who have come to dance at his club or flirting with Jake as he makes the good-looking young man sit in his lap to have his palm read, the performance Hoffman gives is up to his usual high standards.

The secondary characters also bring a lot to "Confidence." Paul Giamatti as Gordo and Brian Van Holt as Miles are Jake's fellow con-artists, and Donal Logue ("The Dao of Steve") and Luis Guzm?Ae?n ("The Count of Monte Cristo," "Punch-Drunk Love") provide a convincing structure in which the main plot can move forward, allowing Jung's world to unfold with as much realism as can be expected from this sort of modern-day gangster-land fantasy.

Rachel Weisz, who has been notable in films from "Enemy At The Gates" to "The Mummy" for playing smart, slick women who know what they want and how to get it, does a passable job as Lily, but there's something lacking from her performance. Although Lily is just as intelligent as Weisz's previous characters, the burden of being the femme fatale of "Confidence" stifles her acting.

Thanks to the way the narrative is arranged, viewers are taken back and forth between the actual events of the movie and the final confrontation between Jake, Lily, and bad guy Travis (Morris Chestnut). It's in these scenes that Weisz's acting seems thinnest, as she overplays Lily as a jilted lover instead of an independent woman. Audience members in a generous mood may feel inclined to cut Weisz some slack for this, given the next turn of events, but it's a shame Jung's script calls for such a predictable female lead when he could have put as much originality into Lily's character as he did into the psychosexual hang-ups exhibited by the King.

If one thinks about the possibilities of plot advancement over the course of the film, the movie's denoument is obvious - but the success of the film's closing speaks to the skill of Jung, Foley and the cast. They take what should be seen as inevitable from at least an hour prior to the film's conclusion, and allow it to surprise the audience completely.

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