WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Have you ever had the rather disconcerting experience of watching a film that entertains you on the surface level but on another level leaves you curiously bored? James Foley's Confidence is all neo-noir stylings and slick attitude, but we've seen it all a hundred times before.
It's the story of a grift—and somewhat predictably, a grift within a grift. The film is populated with cynical egoists spouting clipped, hard-boiled dialog, and the story might be described similarly: It's a clever little maze, taking twisty turns, and has confidence in its posturing, but it never feels exactly real: The story feels written, and the actors seem as if they're acting. There is some amount of joy to be derived from this cinematic puzzle box, but it's nothing that will stay with you.
Confidence tells the story of Jake Vig (Edward Burns) and his edgy but personable gang of grifters, Gordo (Paul Giamatti of American Splendor), Miles (Brian Van Holt), and Big Al (Louis Lombari), as they move from con to con, finally hitting upon one that goes sour. Suddenly, they're in a face-off with underworld kingpin King (Dustin Hoffman). In a way, Hoffman's performance can be seen as a microcosm of the film—he's having fun playing his part but you never truly buy him as this character.
The con of the third act involves a gorgeous newcomer to the gang—Lily (Rachel Weisz)—and attracts the attention of a grizzled FBI agent (Andy Garcia). An underutilized Robert Forster is the target. But at a certain point watching this film, the smirking twists of the plot will stop being appealing, and you'll just relax and let it play over you, and perhaps you'll grin at the screenwriterly gimmicks that fly at you. Confidence ain't a movie that treads any new noir soil, but I suppose you could say it's nice to look at—the cinematography deserves a better film.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Lion's Gate presents Confidence in a dazzling anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation. This is a surprisingly fine, detail-rich transfer, full of saturated color and deep blacks. The color palette must have been a particular challenge with its deep primary colors, but watching this image is a modern-noir-lover's delight. Bravo!
Only the slight evidence of edge halos prevents Confidence from earning the highest marks.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is pleasingly enveloping. This is an impressive sound mix that throws ambient noise all around you, including music and traffic and club noise. This is a dialog-centric film, and it's mostly clean and clear but tends toward harshness at the very high end.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The Confidence DVD offers a bevy of impressive supplements, not least of which are Three Audio Commentaries. The first of the three is by Director James Foley, who talks in a mostly monotone voice about the production of the film. One interesting bit is how he decided to cast his film with what he calls "huggable" actors—that is, actors that have a teddy-bear quality. I don't necessarily agree with that aim, considering the mean-spirited subject matter, but I did feel the film was well cast. He talks about his inspirations and the origins of ideas, and about music choices. There aren't too many dead spots.
The second of the three commentaries is by Writer Doug Jung, who is a little more energetic and humorous than Foley. However, his track understandably offers a tunnel-vision look at the script and the translation of that script to the screen. He seems to run out of things to say at a certain point, and there are wider dead spots as the track moves on.
The third commentary is by Actors Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, and Andy Garcia. The inclusion of those final two actors will likely be a surprise to most viewers who don't listen to more than 10 minutes of the track. This is by far the most overtly enjoyable track, particularly Hoffman's comments, which are low-key but often sidesplitting. Hoffman seems to have been recorded separately and talks mostly over his own scenes, but the other three enjoy interaction together. Weisz talks about deleted scenes that aren't on the disc, dammit.
Next up is the always-dependable Sundance Channel Presents: Anatomy of a Scene. This featurette is 26 minutes long, and though it is ostensibly about one scene in the film (n which the characters plan the primary grift), it's really about the entire film and even ends—disappointingly—with a 5-minute series of short clips from the film. It's broken up into Screenplay, Casting, Location, Cinematography, Editing, and Wrap sections.
We get a hilarious 6-minute collection of Deleted Scenes that's really just alternate takes of one scene starring Dustin Hoffman and a gaggle of flimsily dressed and naked strippers.
Finally, the disc offers a Soundtrack Presentation, which is merely an advertisement for the soundtrack CD.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Confidence has garnered a special edition that is perhaps a bit overkill, considering that the movie is mostly hollow stylings. But the commentary from the cast is worth a listen. Give it a rent.