Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Reviews
Very Good Film! One of Charlie Kaufman's more overlooked and underrated screenplays, 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' may have been something of a departure from the high-concept experimentalism that made his previous brainchildren, 'Being John Malkovich' and 'Adaptation' (a masterpiece and a near-masterpiece, respectively) such striking breaths of fresh air, but on no account should its ability to engage and entertain on those strengths of its own be underestimated. Taking a well-earned break from the surreal situations and the complex plotting, Kaufman turned his attention here to a much more straightforward yarn that was better grounded in reality; the twist there being that it was based on a story that, while allegedly true, just as likely never happened. 'Confessions' though is willing to give Chuck Barris the benefit of the doubt in regards to his dubious claims to have been a secret assassin for the CIA in the midst of his days as a game show host, giving life to such controversial classic as 'the Gong Show' and 'the Dating Game' while taking it from a range of human targets around the globe. It sits back and lets the scenario unfold without question - and does so with such considerable spirit and vigour that it's hard not to get lured in and pulled along for the ride. Regardless of whether the real-life Barris truly did have some incredible adventures within his time, or simply an overly-active imagination, this Śmovie translates it into one heck of an enjoyable romp - slick, stylish and entrancing on the surface, and with a bracingly poignant and sobering tale lurking underneath. It's not an innovative, far-out, one-of-a-kind experience (a la 'Being John Malkovich'). But it's an entertaining, well-made and entirely satisfying flick with one particularly brilliant stand-out performance, and that's more than enough to do the job. Kaufman can probably pen avant-garde better than anybody else today, but 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' goes to prove that, when in the right company, he can write 'normal' just as impressively.
Television made him famous, but his biggest hits happened off screen. "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is the story of a legendary showman's double life - television producer by day, CIA assassin by night. At the height of his TV career, Chuck Barris was recruited by the CIA and trained to become a covert operative. Or so Barris said.
"Some Things Are Better Left Top Secret"
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is an altogether interesting film from all angles. There's the life of Chuck Barris aspect, which is the story of the film, and if the CIA connection is actually true or not. Then there's the technical elements. It's George Clooney's directorial debut and it's written by Charlie Kauffman. There's also the great cast, including: Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts. Overall, it's a fairly good movie, but in that sense it is also disappointing because I believe, given the source material and names attached, it should have been a lot better.
This biographical film follows Chuck Barris as he works his way into television by coming up with game show ideas like, The Dating Game. In enters, Jim Byrd, who approaches Chuck about becoming an independent contract killer for the CIA right before he hits it big with his first game show. From their we see the supposed double life of Chuck Barris. On the surface he's just a trash television personality, but behind the scenes he's a lethal assassin.
At the end of this one I was left wondering what could have been. The movie is extremely messy in spots and some scenes just don't work at all. Then there's the scenes that are just about perfect also. If only Clooney, Kauffman, and the cast could have found a happy medium between the absurd and the serious, this would have been a much better film.
As it is, this is still a pretty good film. It's far from perfect and suffers from a variety of problems, but it's altogether entertaining and interesting. It's worth a watch for more than the fact that it's Clooney's directorial debut and a Kauffman script.
A film based on the autobiography of game-show creator-host Chuck Barris, of The Gong Show and the Dating Game to name a few. In this autobiography he details his life in show business as well as his other life as a CIA assassin. Game show host by day, Assassin by night. The truth is still not for certain.
Sam Rockwell stars as Chuck Barris, in a pitch perfect performance, capturing all the nuances and quirks that make the real Barris.
Simon Oliver: You are a bloody amateur.
Chuck Barris: You're a faggot.
Jim Byrd: Chuck.
Simon Oliver: Tell me, Mr. Barris, are you in possession of my microfilm?
Chuck Barris: Yeah, I got it.
Simon Oliver: Let's have it, then.
Chuck Barris: It's up my ass, Oliver, why don't you reach on up there and get it?
The book has been turned into a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman of Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine, and Being John Malkkovich fame, and who better to adapt such an offbeat story, filling the film with dark humor and a twisty tone from satire to bleak and philosophical in its own ways.
Jim Byrd: You're 32 years old, and you've achieved nothing. Jesus Christ was dead and alive again by 33. You better get crackin'.
Its also a low budget movie from Miramax, directed by George Clooney for his first time in the directors chair, and being low budget, he gives the film a great look using various camera techniques, film saturation, old movie tricks, and long creative takes to get some neatly done scenes.
[developing his idea for the Gong Show]
Chuck Barris: We're goin' about this all wrong! We're killing ourselves trying to find good acts. We just book bad ones and kill them! We kill 'em before they're through, as soon as it gets unbearable, we kill them. Dead.
Also well handled is the incorporation of the actual game show footage into the film and the recreation of certain events as well as the whole look of the various decades portrayed and interviews with various people who know Chuck.
Patricia: Very good Chuck. I am pleasantly surprised, you're not like the other murderers.
Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts also star as the two women in Chuck's life that make up a part of him and what he wants to be, and they are both very good in their roles.
Rutger Hauer and Clooney again show up in small parts as well, and make their scenes and chemistry with Rockwell work very well adding to both the dark tone and dry comedy of the film.
The way the subject matter of assassin is handled is done so well, putting the viewer in a certain frame of mind that could go either way with if Barris was actually an assassin or not, and how the whole experience was fucking with his mind.
If there is one gripe, its how dark this film does gets in terms of its dramatic shift after the first hour, but that's a small issue, this is a very entertaining, well written dark comedy, with a great performance form Rockwell and very good directorial effort from Clooney.
Jim Byrd: He's a bad guy. He's one of the bad guys.
Chuck Barris: Bad for the US, right, Jim? Not bad in the absolute sense. Just bad for the US.
Jim Byrd: Don't fuckin' dance with me. Renda's bad for the Tea & Biscuit Company. He's bad for me personally. You work for me. Renda's bad for me... You're now officially a patriotic citizen of the United States of Jim Byrd. There's no backing out now. We let you in on everything. You don't play. You don't leave. You understand that? You don't play... You don't leave.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind marks a stylish and daring foray into direction. Whilst the film is undoubtedly crisp, its strength is also ultimately its downfall - this film is both a black comedy and a thriller but the two don't sit together well and the comedy ultimately undermines the thriller elements. Despite this, the acting is generally of a high quality - Julia Roberts and George Clooney both equally convincing in their roles, Julia in particular being made to look much more sexy and daring than in Ocean's 11. However, it is Sam Rockwell as Chuck Barris who really steals the show. His performance ultimately makes the film what it is and you really believe in his troubled "genius" and root for him on his missions.
Confessions..., is however, a somewhat difficult film to engage with fully. You may think you've seen Drew Barrymore's performance before and you'd be right (think back to "The Wedding Singer" with Adam Sandler). However, more noticeably, the action is broken up by comments from Barris' real-life contempories just when you want the story to unfold further. In my opinion, these should have been left to the end as a fitting testament to the man who may or may not have worked for the CIA, because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether Barris' did or didn't because Rockwell makes you want to believe that the story is true.
Sam Rockwell brings a ton of life to a movie that spends its first hour being kind of dry and confusing. The spy scenes generally flew over my head, and there's a lot of colorless stretches of expository dialogue. The humor's good, but underutilized.
I wish this movie spent less time on Chuck Barris's television woes and more time elucidating the espionage subplots, because ultimately they're what give the movie dramatic weight. The Dating Game's funny and all, but for the amount of development poured into it, the returns are insignificant.
Ultimately Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a textured and mature drama that boasts great performances and dark humor by the bucketload. But I think it could have been really great. Too bad.