Even the tagline to the new crime thriller Confidence "It's not the money. It's the money" smacks of a grift. The movie bends over backwards to try to convince you that it's solidly in the land of David Mamet, but since Mamet wasn't actually involved what we get is more a warmed-over version of Elmore Leonard, free of the vibrant characters or gum-snapping dialogue of either. This one is running on the fumes of a few clever jokes and the crinkly-eyed "charm" of star Ed Burns alone. It really is a shame, considering that director Foley hasn't pulled off a score himself since 1992's brilliant adaptation of Mamet's own Glengarry Glen Ross.
The story is typical: after unwittingly scamming the King (Dustin Hoffman), one of the most powerful criminals in town, Jake Vig (Burns) and his crew are blackmailed into pulling a risky confidence scheme. With a cast that reads like the product of a Tarantino/Soderbergh indie yard sale (Luis Guzman, Paul Giamatti, Robert Forster, Andy Garcia) and light so low-key you'd think Los Angeles was about to be devoured by the ultimate El Nino-inspired hurricane, Confidence is high on atmospherics but low on the gravitas that makes for a truly surprising caper film.
Of course, the biggest grift of all is the notion that genre pictures are meant to surprise in the first place. But a great genre film hangs onto its conventions like a drunk hangs onto a bottle. It's the story the drunk tells at the bar after the bottle has gotten him where he needs to go that matters, not his choice of poison. As Hoffman's gleefully creepy villain, the King, tells Jake after initially sizing him up, "Sometimes, Jake, style can get you killed." And sometimes, it can just kill a good time at the movies. (Lions Gate)