Director: James Foley
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Dustin Huffman, Edward Burns, Andy Garcia.
Synopsis: Jake Vig ( Edward Burns ) is a consummate grifter about to pull his biggest con yet. He sets out to avenge his friend’s murder. But his last scam backfired, leaving him indebt to a mob boss ( Dustin Huffman ) and his enforcers.
Review: Jake Vig is a really good con artist. He supposedly cons the wrong mark and gets his whole team into trouble with a kingpin named ’King’ ( Dustin Huffman ). He tries to settle things with the mob boss, but King isn’t having any of it. He wants the control the con man Jake Vig and get him to con other marks and get a very big cut of the money for himself. Really? Can you con a con man? Can you even really control someone like that? Are you ever really in control? Jake Vig gets his team together in order to settle the debt. This is to be the last big con that will set the team up for life. Crooked cops, grifters, mob lords, henchmen, and attractive social engineers. This movie has it all.
Rachel Weisz definitely shows her range as an actress in this movie. Usually films and TV shows where a character play deferent parts or role-playing, show us the actress/actors range very well compared to doing many movies in which that celebrity ‘may’ have parts that show their deferent acting skills. Its very easy for an actress/actor to get typecast as a certain persona, just like an extra in a film. A good example of celebrities showing range would be FOX's TV show Dollhouse, where Eliza Dushku is role-playing deferent personas ( an over simplification of the storyline ) which shows us her range as an actress. So here we get more of the great acting skills and talent of Rachel Weisz. Of course this is not the only film where Rachel Weisz is conning people and making them believe that she is someone else like the movie Complete Unknown (2016). In that film, instead of her being a con artist, she has an identity crisis where she wants to completely be someone else. Edward Burns play the king of all trolls. Even when you don’t know that your being trolled, your being trolled. The character is the master social engineer. He has to be the most slippery person on the face of the planet. Edward Burns does a really good job in this movie. I like how the movie trolls you. You never know the real plot is until you see it to the end. I won’t spoil anything here. I try to keep my reviews relatively spoiler free.
The film focuses on the idea of perceived reality. What is real? The tool known as social engineering is the catalyst for creating the simulated experience. Can we trust our own senses? The conned victims completely believes what they are seeing is real. Does this only works on the weak minded? I cant but help being reminded of the movie Inception (2010), all of these different con artists creating a scene that seems real but nothing is what it seems. Ghost in the Shell (2017) has Kuze diving into peoples mind creating the same conned narrative. The bottom line is that the weak minded fall for this stuff. Strangely the movie Inferno (2016) has scenes in the film where the character Harry Sims ( Irrfan Khan ) creates these simulated experiences designed to fool Robert Langdon ( Tom Hanks ). The bottom line is that social engineering is everywhere, some people do it better than others and the weak mind typically fall for this stuff. Of course the easy way is to just have force abilities and use them to Jedi mind trick a storm trooper to unlock your restrains, open the door for you, and conveniently drop his weapon, Star Wars Episode 7 the Force Awakens ( 2015 ).
This is a very interesting movie. I like the way the film is set up, the way the main character Jake Vig narrates as the movie goes on. You always have some idea of what’s happening in the film. This film does this very well. Some movies tell a little too much to the audience much like the introduction of the character ‘Jyn Erso’ from ROUGE ONE (2016) compared to the introduction of ‘Ray’ from Star Wars Episode 7 (2015). Too much talking can ruin the essence of a scene but this movie is not what it seems, which is good. One twist after another. The characters serve the plot which is a big win for the film. Characters exist to further the story and set the narrative in order to get to the next act. The editing and camera work are also good. The movie has smooth pacing. The camera angels change according to the presents of different characters. When Dustin Huffman’s character ‘King’ shows up in a scene, the camera work focuses on wide shots in order to show you the audience his domain. The cinematography slightly tilts the angles of the camera as to show us how the character Jake is being intimidated by King. The camera has a normal cut from shot to shot when Jake does a con on some one, showing us the normality the simulated experience to the ’mark’ or victim of the con. The lighting is done well for its time. Lighting is better in movies today with the more advanced editing tools and proficient experts, but still the movies lighting is well done for the 2002-2003 era of Hollywood film making. The movie can seem a little silly at times but it is a good watch.
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