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Review: Have 'Confidence': Film is great

Good cast handles twisty, witty movie with aplomb

By Paul Clinton

Ed Burns and Dustin Hoffman in "Confidence."

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(CNN) -- In "Confidence," Ed Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, and Rachel Weisz use a complex scheme of offshore accounts, wire transfers, corporate loans, phony killings, fake blood and creative accounting to pull off a complicated scam. It's a smart and sassy dark comedy that will keep you laughing and guessing until the very end.

In "Confidence," there are only two rules. The first rule is that nothing and no one are what they seem to be. The second rule is there are no rules.

Burns plays Jake Vig, a handsome, talented grifter at the top of his game. He's swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting marks across the country. But he and his motley crew, Gordo (Paul Ciamatti), Miles (Brian Van Holt), Big Al (Louis Lombardi), and two corrupt Los Angeles detectives -- Whitworth (Donal Logue) and Manzano (Luis Guzman) -- pick the wrong sucker when they rip off an accountant who works for the King, a highly eccentric L.A. crime boss gleefully portrayed by Hoffman. It seems the accountant used -- and lost -- the King's money.

In an effort to save his perfectly tanned skin, Jake comes up with a plan. He'll cut the King in on another scam he's pulling on the King's rival, Morgan Price (Robert Forster), a sleazy banker with mob connections. If the King provides the seed money, Jake will reel Price in and split the profits with his new partner, in addition to paying him back the money swindled from the hapless accountant.

The King calls Jake "Tiger," and seems to have a little crush on the good-looking con man as he reluctantly agrees to the plan. But, no fool, he sends along one of his own goons to supervise.

Added to this group is a beautiful pickpocket named Lily, played by Weisz. The stage is now set.

Gigantic shell game

Rachel Weisz plays a clever moll in "Confidence."

What follows is a dazzling series of crosses and double crosses, alliances formed and broken, and millions of dollars being shuffled to and from bank accounts around the world. The whole film is a gigantic shell game and good luck keeping track of the pea.

First time screenwriter Doug Jung has created a multi-layered, complex story that snaps, crackles and pops with sparkling dialogue, interesting characters and a twisted plotline that defies logic -- yet fits together like a perfectly made jigsaw puzzle at the end.

Director James Foley (1992's "Glengarry Glen Ross") is adept at getting the best out of high-profile ensemble casts. "Confidence" proves to be no exception.

Two-time Oscar winner Hoffman recently changed agents, and if this small -- but pivotal -- role as the sexually ambivalent mob boss is a result of that change, then it was well worth it. Imagine that Ratso Rizzo, 34 years after "Midnight Cowboy," gets his leg fixed, moves to L.A. and buys a strip club. It could happen.

Good chemistry

I'm not a huge Ed Burns fan -- at least not as an actor -- but his cool aloofness is a perfect fit for Jake Vig. Besides, anyone who could direct, write, and star in "The Brothers McMullen" (1995), budgeted at only $25,000 -- it went on to make $10 million -- has to have a little con man inside working overtime.

And Weisz, fresh off her successful film "About A Boy" starring Hugh Grant, once again delivers the goods as the sexy and mysterious Lily. As the only woman in this gang of scene-stealing thugs, she's an island of sexual coolness. She also creates hot chemistry with Burns, who usually has the sex appeal of Al Gore.

And Andy Garcia, playing undercover FBI agent Gunther Butan, is terrific. He seems to be having a ball playing the hygienically impaired G-man, who has been chasing Vig all over the country and has now finally caught up with him in L.A. while in the middle of his latest scam.

Combining the slickness of "The Grifters" (1990) and the humor of "Get Shorty" (1995), "Confidence" is an intelligent, fast-paced winner that throughly entertains.

"Confidence" opens nationwide on Friday, April 25, and is rated R.

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