Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for violence, nudity, language
Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
The enigmatic Ed Burns positively smolders in this snappy, energetic ode to the con.
Not since John Cusack seduced Annette Bening (“The Grifters”) or Brad Pitt bellied up to George Clooney (“Ocean’s Eleven”) has a grift been executed with such aplomb. Polished grifter Jake Vig (Burns) is riding high after a silky smooth swindle nets him and his crew thousands of dollars. Unbeknownst to Jake, the gang’s mark (an ostensibly inexperienced accountant) is a lackey for the unconventional cum psychotic crime boss known as The King (Dustin Hoffman).
Never one to turn his back on a challenge, Jake glibly convinces The King that he and his people (Paul Giamatti as Gordo, Brian Van Holt as Miles, Rachel Weisz as Lily) deserve a second chance to repay the missing money by pulling off the biggest con of their career.
Jake’s scheme is low-level genius --- a brainy, complicated plot that kicks off with a conflicted banker and an adulterated flirtation, and blossoms into creative financing, corporate loans and the ubiquitous off-shore accounts.
Grifters are known for their heady superstitions. When brash blonde pickpocket Lily shows up at the super-swindle as a freshly-dyed redhead (the worst con omen in the book), Jake is convinced that the jig is up. A provocative mental exercise is suddenly an apprehensive race against time and the mob.
Burns’ cocky poise makes “Confidence” spin. The dialogue is catchy and whip-smart (“I’m pissed too, but not twenty-five to life pissed”), the supporting cast (including Donal Logue and Luis Guzman) is the pinnacle of character A-list, and the narrative is edgy enough to warrant discriminating attention. Sub-plotting love story (involving Jake and Lily) works to shift the focus when called for, and the double-crossing climax (though relatively facile) is fiendishly clever.