The “con” in “con man” comes from the word “confidence,” because a con man doesn’t use stealth or force to steal from his victims — he wins their confidence, and so they give him their money, often happily, always greedily, because he leads them to think that they will get a lot more back. Doing that requires a great deal of confidence on the part of the crook.
“Confidence” is about Jake Vig (Edward Burns), a first-rate con man who makes one big mistake.
The con goes just fine — he gets the money. But he doesn’t find out until after the con that his victim was a money man for a mob boss called the King (Dustin Hoffman). Jake hasn’t stolen money from some guy who will not be able to go after him because he is too embarrassed to tell anyone or too unsophisticated to figure it out or not connected enough to have the resources to follow up. He has stolen money from a very tough, scary, guy. We know this because it only took a day for the guy to send someone to shoot Jake’s long-time partner. The mark who lost the loot is quickly out of the picture, too. Jake and his remaining partners could run. But Jake does have that confidence and knows that what he does best is talk just about anyone into just about anything. He won’t have to spend the rest of his life on the run from gunmen if he can talk the mob boss into letting him get square with one more great big con. But who is it that is being conned?
This is one of those twisty-turny stories in which it is fun to be in on the con as and even more fun to find that we have been conned ourselves. The big deception at the heart of the story is a little disappointing — oddly uninventive. But the marvelous cast does wonders with smart, tough dialogue. The pleasures of this movie are not so much in the plot as in the small moments of character. That’s where the real surprises and freshness are.
Parents should know that this movie has extremely strong language and explicit violence, including shooting and the death of major characters. Just about everyone in the movie is a thief, a murderer, or both.
Families who see this movie should talk about the con man’s greatest asset — the mark who thinks that he is conning someone out of something.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy David Mamet’s “House of Games,” “The Spanish Prisoner,” and “Heist.”