Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Confidence
USA 2003 : James FOLEY : 98 mins
There are many reasons to dislike this self-satisfied, pointlessly twisty, very minor would-be thriller, but one stands clear above them all the black hole of anti-charisma that is its leading man. Though studios persist in trying to convince us otherwise, star has never been the word for Edward Burns, a performer so clearly infatuated with himself that he leaves no room for the audience, let alone other characters and actors. Only once has his charmlessness been sensibly deployed: Saving Private Ryan, when Spielberg turned Burns grating persona (and scratchy voice) to the films advantage.
Elsewhere, the results are invariably grim especially when Burns himself (who also suffers absurd delusions that he can write and direct) takes charge, as in the emetic Sidewalks of New York. In Confidence, viewers would be forgiven for wondering if Burns had insisted on some kind of cheval mirror being placed out of shot on set so that he could check his gorgeousness at every opportunity, so brazen is his on-screen narcissism.
Defenders of the film may suggest that this trait belongs more to Burns character than to Burns himself. But as con-man Jake Vig, Burns goes way beyond cockiness into the realms of the insufferable. This is a major problem, since he’s seldom off-screen, and also acts as the narrator of the films cliched, episodic flashback structure. Lying in a pool of blood (So Im dead) on a seedy New York street, Vig (even the name smacks of lazy scriptwriter contrivance) recounts the events that got him there, to a skeptical, gun-toting hood (Morris Chestnut).
What unfolds is a choppily-edited (by Stuart Levy), slickly-lensed (by Juan Ruiz-Anchia), tedious yarn in which Vig, having landed himself in trouble with the local gangland supremo known as The King (Dustin Hoffman, coasting on nervy tics), offers to pull off a major scam. The target is shady financier Morgan Price (Robert Forster), and Vig augments his usual team (Paul Giamatti, Brian Van Holt) with the addition of a femme fatale pickpocket (Rachel Weisz). Meanwhile scruffy fed Gunther Butan (Andy Garcia) observes from the sidelines, eager to bring career-criminal Vig to justice
Longtime hack-director Foley takes a largely pedestrian approach to material of which, one suspects, he isn’t entirely sure himself. He seems to think he’s making some kind of actors showcase, and while Hoffman and Garcia are reasonably entertaining to watch, Forster and Giamatti are distractingly underused having such fancy names in the supporting cast counts for little when Burns is allotted so much more screen time. In fact, the biggest impact is made by the virtually unknown Van Holt, who shows glimmers of genuine movie-star potential in his relatively thankless role as Vigs taciturn partner-in-crime.
Despite touches of pretension such as naming the bar Vig owns after Euclid, the father of classical geometry – Doug Jungs script is strictly by-the-numbers for this kind of fare: as in so many films these days, nothing and nobody are what they seem! Theres one decent minor sting in a jewellery shop, but the main Morgan Price plotline soon becomes almost impossible to follow in a decidedly non Euclidian manner – as cross follows double-cross ad nauseam. And with Burns involved, there’s no shortage of nauseam before the credits roll.
29th July, 2003
(seen 8th June: Showcase, Dudley)
by Neil Young