Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Big Con

Confidence (2003) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“So, I'm dead,” says the disembodied voice of grifter Jake Vig (Edward Burns), “and I think it's because of this red­head.” Three weeks earlier: We see the detritus of a criminal deal gone bad: guns drawn, bloody body on the floor, and an open case full of money. Approaching police sirens convince Lionel Dolby (Leland Orser) to split post­haste, after which the other players all divvy up the cash. “A confi­dence game is like putting on a play where every­body (except for the mark) knows his part,” Jake informs us. Lionel was the mark. A day or so later he is a dead mark, because he was also an accountant "borrowing" from mobster boss Winston King (Dustin Hoffman). Figuring Lionel was too stupid to have filched the money by him­self, ‘the King’ manages to off one of the con men, too, Alphonse “Big Al” Moorley (Louis Lombardi.) The remaining three figure they're not too far behind. Jake decides bargaining is better than bullets, so he meets up with ‘the King’ and persuades him to let him pay him back (with interest) by engaging in a joint venture with him against the King's competitor money launderer Morgan Price (Robert Forster.) The King assigns one of his hench­men Lupus (Franky G) to join them to “make sure things go smoothly.”

Jake introduces (“Who's the mope?”) Lupus and “the new shill Lily” (Rachel Weisz) to his remaining partners Gordo (Paul Giamatti) and Miles (Brian Van Holt). They flat out think “it's a dumb freakin' idea,” but Jake talks them round. Then Jake who is super­stitious (“11:11, make a wish”) gets a lot of bad signs, starting with Lily dying her hair red to “the grand pooh bah of all jinxes, a bird in your house.” In the words of Gordo, “Oy, Vey!


Jake's voice-over tells us that a master confidence man plays his con as a grand­master plays chess: he thinks twenty moves ahead. Back when I was in college the chess team invited a master to play them all simul­tan­eously. I took a guest seat at the end of the table. His first moves were rote openings that all the chess club knew. I was not a member, though, just a bored engineering student who broke new ground moving my pieces. The master not expecting this left his bishop unguarded and I took it. Because of the inertia involved in chess, it took him a while to ultimately defeat me. Other players as they were eliminated toured the table to discover me the unknown player beating their champ. That's what it looked like. And truth be told for a chess master, it was a gay way to play.

In “Confidence” the new girl Lily turns the tables on the crew, and they are looking to get beat. It was a “dumb” idea to begin with, or as we might say today, oh, so gay. Here I'm using the word gay in one of its current senses to mean "stupid." Words can have multiple meanings as does this one when ‘the King’ showing off his establishment remarks, “Thursday is gay and lesbian night,” meaning for homos. One of the two cops on the take complaining about a fed's inter­ference remarks he can “take that gay hat of his and shove it.” The man wears a brightly colored hat, called gay for its coloration. And, of course, when Jake runs a test scam with Lily, posing as a happily married couple celebrating their first anniversary, and they persuade the mark to spring for the diamond gift, Jake has her “smile like you just got a present from the man of your dreams.” Further, to fix it as being the real deal of a gay marriage celebration, “Let's give him a strong finish, alright?” and they kiss. Gay can mean happy in a celebra­tory mood.

This movie came out in 2003 the year of Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled, as Prof. Tamara Metz puts it, “same-sex couples could not justly be excluded from the civil benefits of marital status” (34). “Confidence” seems to be trying to help us cope with their inclusion in marital status, first by intro­ducing popular terminology (of gay) in its various meanings.

You may recall the brouhaha when protestors opposed Pastor Rick Warren opening with prayer Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. “Warren's comments on same-sex marriage stirred the only notice­able disturbance in Obama's trans­ition into the White House,” writes Prof. Metz. “One month earlier, Warren had explained why, though he supported ‘equal rights for all Americans,’ he opposed same-sex marriage: ‘I'm opposed to redefin­ition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I'm opposed [for instance] to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage’” (1–2). Here in “Confidence” we are given this same analogy when ‘the King‘ is lining up acts and is presented with: “We're sisters.” ¶“I like sisters … and you're over 18?” ¶“Yeah.” ¶“Let's see what the sisters can do. Put them in a booth.”

After discussing with Jake the con game (“There's some technique to it.” ¶“Like style”), and ‘King’ pointing out his operation, e.g. gay & lesbian night (“That is very taste­ful, by the way”), he dramatic­ally turns his attention to the sisters performing in the back­ground: “Hey, stop it! Stop that right now. Sh!t, man, how do you like that? They're sisters.” He goes on to explain, “Come here, girls. Now, listen to me. It's the first time I've ever put girls in the booth. Usually, they work their way up. You're gonna go work on your routine, you know why? Because you're saying that you are sisters.” ¶“We are sisters. You don't like what we're doing?” ¶“Of course, I like what you're doing, but I like it done with artistry, with grace and that means if you're gonna eat each other, you must find a way to do it taste­fully, okay? These are people here. They've got families, alright?” ¶“Okay.” ¶“You under­stand. Then go to work.”

Likewise, if homos are being sprung into the family institution of marriage, it's got to be done tastefully. The girls do get their act together and ‘the King’ approves, “Nice! It's real. You know why? Because you're lickin' each other.” Well, you might say, that's what they were doing the first time. Yes, but they were then dressed in evening attire, just like the customers. Now they're in their stripper's costumes, and that helps the people categorize them, once removed, so to speak. It's called taste. Similarly, using taste we would refer to this new development as “gay and lesbian marriage,” not simply "gay marriage," because the latter dyad can refer to an especially happy time in any hetero marriage, just as a couple may dress up in evening attire to go out on the town and don't want the girlie act to be dressed the same way.

The bird alighting in the con man's house is seen by him as a curse. That's the opposite of the blessing in Psalms when the birds in the natural order nest in God's house, (Psalm 84:3) “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for her­self, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.” Christians in our new order have their work cut out for them sorting out the vocabulary, as in (Ezek. 2:6) “And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words.”

‘The King’ also explains the importance of not being so ostentatious as to attract undo attention to one­self, because “Style can get you killed.” There are dangers inherent in such mummery as a same-sex wedding, and the Christian baker required to deliver their wedding cake should first assure him­self there is adequate security in place. He would do that any­way for, say, a state wedding that's mired in contro­versy. And we're reminded of diseases inherent in some life­styles when Gordo lists various ones that can be contracted from door knobs and toilet seats.

Production Values

The movie “Confidence” (2003) was directed by James Foley. It was written by Doug Jung. It stars Ed Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Andy Garcia. Dustin Hoffman really develops a choice character. Rachel Weisz is s teamingly hot, believable in her performance, but her supporting role could have used a little more character development, and in her budding relation­ship with Burns. Giamatti's character similarly suffers. Ed Burns plays his part with panache. Every­one performs well except at times they're too campy.

MPAA rated it R for language, violence and sexuality/nudity. The sound­track was annoying along with the acting some­times that could get frazzled.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This film had plenty in the way of style and substance. even a cool twist that was not over­done. Granted it has style, but nothing we haven't seen before. I liked it because I'm easy to please and there aren't any major flaws, it just wouldn't be my first pick. It does fine as a back­up.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotations were from the King James Version. Pub. 1611. Rev. 1769. Software.

Metz, Tamara. Untying the Knot: Marriage, the State, and the Case for Their Divorce. Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton UP, 2010. Print.