So Squalid Crew

Consummate, witty and wicked conmen caper

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DIRECTED BY James Foley

STARRING Ed Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia

Opens August 22, Cert 15, 98 mins

If the notion of (yet) another bunch of fast-talking eccentric conmen pulling off a daring heist with a twist doesn’t fill you with thrills, be assured this more than makes up in pizzazz what the concept might lack in originality. The inconsistent but sometimes spot-on Foley’s drawn the best from some great actors, and Doug Jung’s debut script is a peach, if peaches were funny and cool. Everyone involved’s having a blast, in a thinking person’s blast kind of way, and it comes across. Confidence swaggers through every second, with just cause.

The opening sequence is a gem. Smooth grifter Jake (Burns) and his crew are enacting a quite ingenious con: we whoop along with them when it’s over. The catch is they only now realise they’ve ripped off creepy crime lord Winston King (aka “The King”), who’s played by Hoffman as an hilariously camp yet violent sleazeball. Auditioning strippers for his club, he explodes, “If you’re gonna eat each other, do it tastefully!” More significantly, he’s soon sizing Jake up: “Hmm, you’re good, I can’t tell when you’re lying. But I’m getting there.” It’s Hoffman’s most Ratso-like role for an eternity, and he rocks.

Set a challenge by The King, the likeable Jake enlists vampish pickpocket Lily (Weisz) to his gang, but is less keen on The King’s henchmen tagging along. Corrupt cops and a mysterious “agent” (Garcia) also scramble the suspenseful equation, as the mission to put the sting on a big-time bank unfolds. Suffice to say there are many, many double-crosses, twists, cons and counter-cons, and a complex flashback structure in there just to keep you on your toes. Better, the jokes are plentiful and slightly mad. “The gig is up,” sighs one crew member. “It’s jig, guy,” corrects another. “It’s the jig that you say is up.” Like Ocean’s Eleven with added irony, Confidence, admittedly a good-looking film, relies on the noun of its title to charm and engage. The final flurry of twists may be a dozen too many for some, but by then you’re happily prepared to let it slide. You trust it: ergo, it works. Often dazzling.

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