Forget understanding the sting, which has something to do with start-ups and offshore bank accounts — just sit back and enjoy the sharp performances and stylish ambiance that are clearly this film's real reason for existing. Con man Jake Vig (Edward Burns) takes his grifting seriously, and has painstakingly assembled a crackerjack crew — Gordo (Paul Giamatti), Miles (Brian Van Holt) and Big Al (Louis Lombardi) — supplemented by a pair of corrupt cops (Donal Logue, Luis Guzman) whose greed and stupidity he manipulates to his own ends. He owns a too-cool little dive bar where they stage swindles and hang out between gigs, and everything's copacetic until they scam a guy named Lionel (Leland Orser). Not that the take isn't good — it's great. But Lionel turns out to have been working for a volatile crime lord named King (Dustin Hoffman) — The King to his associates and friends, if he had any — and King isn't happy. Jake is forced to pull off a high-stakes con for King by way of making things right, and nothing but burning businessman Morgan Price (Robert Forster), against whom King has a longstanding grudge, will do. With the addition of sultry pickpocket Lily (Rachel Weisz) and King's scary flunky, Lupus (Franky G), Vig's new crew is ready to start looking for the weak link in Price's organization. Further complicating matters are a scruffy agent (Andy Garcia) who's out to bring Vig down and Price's all-purpose muscle, Travis (Morris Chestnut), who's looking out for number one with a bullet. This intricate thriller doesn't aim for the psychological intensity of David Mamet's HOUSE OF GAMES (1987), in which every twist of the convoluted plot reveals another layer of tortured personality. It just wants to keep you guessing — no one is what he or she seems and nothing unfolds without a couple of flashy kinks — and by and large, it succeeds admirably. Screenwriter Doug Jung's dialogue is snappy, James Foley's direction is brisk and Juan Ruiz Anchía's cinematography imparts a smeary neon glamour to shopworn locations. The cast — a felicitous blend of character actors and up-and-comers — work together like a street-smart machine, and Hoffman's scummy turn as porn-peddler and all-around creep King is a reminder of just how sleazily funny he can be.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: R
- Review: Forget understanding the sting, which has something to do with start-ups and offshore bank accounts — just sit back and enjoy the sharp performances and stylish ambiance that are clearly this film's real reason for existing. Con man Jake Vig (Edward Burns)… (more)
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