I’m still working through my interest in heist movies, and with that in mind I watched James Foley’s Confidence (IMDB), which stars Edward Burns as the lead con man, Jake, who begins the film acknowledging (a la Sunset Boulevard) that he is a “dead man.” He then begins telling the story of his latest scam, which he is pulling on behalf of a local mob boss (played by Dustin Hoffman) who proudly embraces his hyperactivity. As the film develops, Jake draws story illustrates the connections between a successful scam and an effective narrative. Both requires figures within the “story” to play their roles properly, to work according to the script. Both require a set of moves to reach a desired end (later in the film, Jake uses (surprise!) a chess metaphor).

This self-awareness is perhaps the film’s greatest strength, but as Roger Ebert points out, it also makes the film feel a little like a hollow exercise. Unlike Ebert, I don’t think a successful film has to make us care about the characters, and in fact, Jake’s cool distance fits effectively within our expectations for the genre, and because I do enjoy several of the character actors (Paul Giamatti, Luis Guzman, Andy Garcia, Donal Logue) who are involved in the scam, I enjoyed the game to a limited extent. This cool distance is reflected in the film’s cinematography, which uses deep blues, greens, and reds to create (as Ebert observes) a postmodern noir city filled with lonely streets and back room deals in dirty strip clubs. However, even the cinematography felt unnecessarily ostentatious in places. During one sequences, Jake converses with Lily (Rachel Weisz) in medium-close-up, with her face lit blue and his face lit green, but these visual pyrotechnics felt unnecessarily flashy, as if the film were constantly reminding us of its goal of reinterpreting film noir.

The New York Times review also recognizes the film’s slavish dependence on David Mamet films and Elmore Leonard novels for its narrative twists and criminal milieu. I’ve been pretty critical of this film, but I did enjoy watching it in general. I’m just not sure it’s breaking any new ground. In terms of the heist film genre, I found that several of the key twists were telegraphed, which may also have made the experience less than satisfying. I’m still trying to think about the significance of “narrative mapping” in heist films, about what desires are being enacted and fulfilled.

Stay tuned. I might have more to say about these issues later (then again, maybe not).

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting