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"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"

Directed by George Clooney.
Written by Charlie Kaufman.  Based on the book by Chuck Barris.
Starring Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore and Julia Robers.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  1/28/03 

Folks--

I’ll tell you what—my overall impression of George Clooney has officially come full circle.  I never was a fan of him pre-“E.R.”, then I didn’t think he was all that good in “E.R.”  Then, his first three movies all sucked, culminating in “Batman and Robin”, which led to my openly pondering when he would just go away.  But, it has all come together since getting out of the Batmobile, and I must say, with “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, the man might even have the talent to stay in the director’s chair for a while.

Based on the book by Chuck Barris, former host of “The Gong Show” and the creator of “The Dating Game”, and a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman (“Adaptation”), Clooney has got an interesting property in his hands.  The supposedly-true story of Barris’ run from NBC page to big-shot TV producer—all while working as a CIA hitman on the side!—is a wild run.  This is mostly due to the scattershot way the plot is filmed, as Clooney keeps the energy high and his star, Sam Rockwell, in front of the camera playing crazy man Barris almost entirely for laughs.  Along the way, he meets life-long love interest Penny (Drew Barrymore), a CIA middleman (Clooney), a possible double-agent (Julia Roberts) and a whole bunch of other folks as he makes his rise to public and underworld superstardom.

Rockwell, who has always been interesting even if the movies were not (“Charlie’s Angels” and “Heist” are two of his bigger films, along with a hilarious bit part in “Galaxy Quest”), is fantastic here and a good choice to play Barris.  He seems vulnerable, very accessible, and like a couple of the women comment in the movie, he isn’t blowing anybody away with his looks, but his charisma makes him an interesting fellow.  Kaufman’s script—or, maybe Barris’ book—is a great mix of comedy and drama for the first three-quarters of the movie, and there are plenty of very funny scenes in the first 45 minutes...in addition to one of the funnier cameos you will get to see in a while.  Clooney and Roberts make their scenes brief but memorable, and for the first time in recent memory, the presence of Drew Barrymore in a motion picture didn’t piss me off or annoy me to the point of pulling out that little razor blade I keep with me “just in case.”  A bit part by Robert John Burke as a CIA training psycho is hilarious, too.  I loved the way that Clooney used the lighting in shots with former associates of Barris (the film goes present-day documentary periodically) and the whole production feels very slick for what was probably a low-budget operation.

Ultimately, the film’s slow-burn finale and its handling of the relationship that Chuck has with Penny was not as strong as the rest of the film.  Also, many of the characters that Barris deals with in his CIA life felt made up, adding fuel to the fact that many outsiders believe his hitman assignments were a lie.  But, this is a pretty incredible first effort by director Clooney and now that Rockwell has proven he can carry a film, I am anxious to see what he does next.

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09