Confessions of a Dangerous... (2002)
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Review Date: January 06, 2003
Director: George Clooney
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Producers: Andrew Lazar
Sam Rockwell
George Clooney
Drew Barrymore
Based on the supposed true life of former "Gong Show" host Chuck Barris, this film brings his "autobiographical" book of the same title to the big screen. According to Barris' manuscript, much of which cannot be corroborated by anyone else, the man who invented TV game shows such as the "Dating Game" also had a side-job as a clandestine assassin for the CIA. According to his memoirs, he killed 33 people during his stint with the Agency and lived quite the bizarre life. PS: No Clooney ass in this one, folks!
When I first read the premise to this true-life story, I was immediately intrigued. I then read about George Clooney and scene-stealing actor Sam Rockwell starring in the film and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH scribe Charlie Kaufman penning it, and was even more intrigued. Then, I read about Drew Barrymore signing on as the "romantic lead"...ouch! Then, I read about Julia Roberts signing on as a secret agent...double ouch! Going into this flick, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect, but considering that it was also Mr. Clooney's first time behind the camera (and the man likes to drink!), I was definitely looking for something kinda cool. What I got was a definite original in story, lots of groovy style and solid acting by most, but not necessarily the overwhelming pleasure that I might've imagined. In fact, as supremely bizarre and unbelievable the premise of this film is, the movie itself isn't necessarily complex, gripping or surprising. Everything is played out pretty straight forward, and even though Clooney jazzes things up with heavy film bleaching a la his partner Steven Soderbergh, and tosses a couple of slick Coen Bros/Scorsese shots our way, the plotline itself remains pretty easy to follow and unfettered by any major head tricks (like most Kaufman scripts). I suppose that I was somewhat disappointed that the movie wasn't as surreal as the premise might have set up, but the film itself wasn't disappointing with laughs, a few cool kills, backstage shenanigans of network TV, a surprisingly decent love story and a good balance of reality/fantasy (although we're never sure which is which, and if there really ever was a fantasy).

I also liked that it didn't necessarily start off too serious, but as things moved along and the lies, the deceit and the very odd life of this one man got stranger and stranger, the film too, became darker in tone and in atmosphere. One very memorable scene features Clooney's character sitting on a diving board near the end of the film and it's very nicely done. Sam Rockwell was also solid as Chuck Barris, and even though Clooney might've overplayed how "amazing" the lad was in the film, he definitely grows with the character and the film, and by the end, you really do feel kind of bad for the dude (nice ass, too!). Drew Barrymore was also decent in a semi-serious role (although the baby fat on her face is now officially "adult fat"), but as expected, Julia Roberts was an eyesore and out of place in a film of this sort. Oh well. As for the "cameo" appearance by other OCEAN'S 11 luminaries such as Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, they are actually quite hilarious, but didn't last more than ten seconds combined, so turn to tell your friend and you'll miss the whole thing. Thankfully for us, Clooney is also very good as the man with the bushy mustache, and for once, a friend of mine actually made the final cut of a movie, as one of the Scottish bagpipe contestants on "The Gong Show" (nice going, John!). Rutger Hauer also plays a small but memorable part in the film, and actually had me wishing for more of him. Great show, dude! The soundtrack was also decent, the pace consistent and I'm pretty sure that I liked the fact that real life people would interject every now and again with their actual opinions of the man (although I'm still not sure about that one).

I guess if I had to fault the film anything it's that it didn't necessarily engage me deeply or have me care much about the lead character (two pretty big points, if you think about it). He wasn't exactly a "sympathetic" guy, but everything that happened to him (or in his mind) was, at the very least, amusing. Overall, I would advise anyone with massive expectations to set them lower and go in expecting little more than an unusual tale of one man's crazy life, solid acting by most, hip style and a "cute" love story.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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