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Smoking guns, double crosses and superstitions are the stock in trade of the grafter flick. Confidence owes a whole lot to The Sting but it also stands on its own as a nice little entry in the con artist genre.

Starting with a Sunset Boulevard lift, the tale is told at gunpoint by a fast talking charmer named Jake Vig (Ed Burns). The framing device could be the only stumble this picture takes as it is two frames deep and isn't even needed all that much.

Jake and his crew are running the long con in LA when they take a guy that has "borrowed" his stake from The King. Borrowin' without askin', one thousand and two stupid things to do.

The King (a classically scummy Dustin Hoffman) holds a grudge and cuts a deal with Jake that all will be forgiven if Jake and his guys scam one of The King's business rivals. To make things a little stickier, The King puts a lame called Lupus (Franky G) on the job, and as if this weren't enough Jake hires a smokin' little pickpocket named Lili (Rachel Weisz).

Much like this week's stinker Identity, the less said about the plot the better, but in this case it's for your enjoyment. The cast is great, with some of the best character actors in the biz going all out to savor the pulp. Donal Logue and Luis Guzman play a couple of dirty LA cops, getting most of the laughs.

The rest of the laughs come from Paul Giamatti and his character's bizarre obsession with the cleanliness of "the hoop." This bit alone makes the movie a must-see, as I'm sure it will join the pop culture line treasury, along with "What's the rumpus?" and "Always be closing."

Even the picture's prestige players, Andy Garcia as a Fed with a literal albatross around his neck (hung there by Jake) and the aforementioned Hoffman, balance the rail of over the top but never topple over. Hoffman gives The King a crush on Jake that could be real or could be a ballsy psyche out, but either way it's a great character bit. Even bolder is one of the greatest lesbian incest gags I've ever seen in my life.

One of the most interesting moments in Jake and The King's interactions comes when Jake uses the same line on him twice, almost too close together. My first reaction was that it was poor editing around a Hoffman improvisation, but then I realized that it's Jake's mantra that a good con is just a play and he's trying to get back on script.

Director James Foley has handled this territory before with Glengarry Glen Ross, but this time the material is more cinematic and he shines with the added freedom. In a sequence where Jake lays out what the rest of the crew believes to be a stupid plan we see it all as Jake makes it breathe, as if to say "this Jake can really spin a tale and that's why he can do what he does."

Confidence is nothing amazing but if you expect amazing in April you ain't too wise. An enjoyable tale of grifts and dames with a great cast.

What's It Worth?: $9

Jordan Rosa

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