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Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (Blu-ray Review)

I remember first hearing about this film and the story that surrounds it.  The idea of having the host of The Gong Show turn out to actually have once been a contract killer for the government was such a radical idea and the fact that it could be true made it all the more intriguing.  Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was George Clooney’s directorial debut and still my favorite of the films he has made.  Utilizing various techniques to make a quirky period piece feel very stylish and fleshed out, Clooney managed to put together a very unique kind of dark comedy “biopic”, with a fantastic performance from Sam Rockwell as the lead character.  Now ‘Confessions’ has made its debut onto Blu-ray, which has given me the chance to go over this high def version of a killer flick.

Film: 

The film is 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 Barris 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 accurately capture the real Barris.  As the film begins, we find Barris living a socially awkward life, as he attempts to become a famous television star.  He has some success, writing a successful pop song, building up a career within various TV studios, and developing a romance with the free-living girl Penny (Drew Barrymore).  However, Chuck still sees himself as kind of a loser.  This is where an anonymous G-Man changes things for Chuck.

One day in a bar, a man named Jim Byrd (George Clooney) shows up, informing Chuck that he knows everything about him and believes that Chuck fits into a certain profile that would qualifies him to for some special work with the CIA.  Chuck takes up this offer and becomes an assassin for the CIA.  During this time, Chuck also gets the chance to move forward on developing a number of TV shows, which means leading a double life.  At home, Chuck is a funny, successful guy, living in a big house with Penny.  When he’s away, Chuck is a suave sort of spy, dealing with other spies such as the gorgeous operative Patricia (Julia Robers) and the eccentric German-American agent Keeler (Rutger Hauer).  As time goes by, tensions thicken, and paranoia starts to set in, Chuck has to deal with his two lives colliding and what it may mean for his future as a spy and as a television personality.

The book was adapted into a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman of Adaptation and Being John Malkkovich fame, and who better to adapt such an offbeat story, filling the film with dark humor and a twisty tone that moves from satire to bleak and later philosophical in its own ways.  While I have heard that Clooney had a hand in reworking the original screenplay, I can still see a lot of Kaufmanisms in how this film plays out.  The film manages to be fairly informative, jumping around in time, and having a lot of background information being dealt out, while still revolving around Chuck Barris’ character.  The extra kick given to the film by Kaufman’s scripting, I believe comes from how Barris’ spy life is handled and how ambiguous the reality of that aspect could be considered.  It keeps things interesting, as does the direction by Clooney.

As this film was a low budget movie from Miramax, Clooney for his first time in the director’s chair, manages to give the film a great look using various camera techniques, film saturation, and old movie tricks to create a lot of interesting looking scenes and get a number of clever, long takes that involve changing around the scenery as the camera whips around the screen.  Given that he had Steven Soderbergh and the Coen brothers as his directorial mentors, Clooney certainly knows how to ape a style that works, especially given the nature of this film.  Being set in the 60s and 70s, there is a fine amount of art on display, which I think goes over quite well, especially in balance with the film’s overall tone.  Also well handled is the incorporation of the actual game show footage into the film and the small interview segments with various people who know Chuck and were on some of his shows.

As far as performances go, I have remained a huge fan of Sam Rockwell for what seems to be quite some time and this film was definitely a big reason as to why.  Aside from having a look that is very close to Barris, I think everything about how he creates this Barris persona that switches between dual identities is incredibly well handled.  Rockwell can be funny, downbeat, a jerk, and even suave as the situation sometimes calls for it and the film is all the better for having him.  As for the rest of the cast, it is almost humorous in the ways that both Barrymore and Roberts play up their seemingly real life personas in this film.  Roberts’ character is practically larger than life and it seems like her celebrity status works to advantage to portray this person.  Similarly, Barrymore seems to let her flighty persona take over and flow well into the character of Penny.  Rutger Hauer shows up for a small role and seems to be having a blast in a very strange part.  And finally, George Clooney’s part is just fine in this film, playing a character that is intentionally cryptic and also dryly hilarious at times.

If there is one gripe, it’s how dark this film does get in terms of its dramatic shift after the first hour.  It is mostly notable due to how much fun this film once it first starts to get going.  Upon getting to the heavier elements in this film, the pacing tends to feel a bit off, but I believe it to be in the strength of the stylish nature of this film and its lead performance that I could continue to have a lot of appreciation for it.  Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a very entertaining, well written dark comedy, with a great lead performance form Sam Rockwell and stands as a very good directorial debut effort from George Clooney.

Video: 

I was quite excited to see how the video quality would be on Blu-ray, as the various levels of saturation presented throughout the film, the colors present, and the fantastic cinematography work by Newton Thomas Sigel should have all contributed to a pretty great looking picture.  Fortunately, the 1080p high definition transfer was well utilized for this film, as it looks great.  This is a film that has a lot of odd and unique visual touches and that is very easy to see when acknowledging the high def transfer present on this disc.  The film moves around between incredibly bright scenes and incredibly dark ones, but I was very satisfied with what I was looking at throughout.  The little details all register quite well too.  It is a great transfer for a film that certainly benefits from it, based on its interesting cinematography.

Audio: 

While I find the video more of an interesting area of discussion in regards to the Blu-ray for this film, ‘Confessions’ does have a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, which was pretty satisfying as well.  This film features a host of different sounds running throughout, which includes the dialogue, the soundtrack and score, the various background elements, and of course the occasional silenced gun shot.  The balance between these various elements all seemed fine by me, as I never had much problem with the various volumes concerning how the audio track registered in my sound system.  It is certainly not a film that is a showcase for fantastic audio, but it is a very good audio track that does fine justice to the film.

Special Features: 

While I wasn’t expecting much in the way of new special features, I was a bit irked by this being another Blu-ray that ports over the DVD special features in standard definition.  It does help that the special features are pretty insightful without going too in depth.  Features include:

Feature Commentary with Director George Clooney and Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel.  This is an entertaining track that manages to balance the various interesting facts one learns about the film with the humor of two guys who obviously get along well together.

Behind the Scenes.  Better than the standard EPK, this feature goes over the story, the tricks used to make the film, and other various tidbits interspersed with footage from the film.

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary.  About 20 minutes of deleted footage, so of it more interesting than not, but all around fun to see after the fact.

Sam Rockwell Screen Test.  A nice showcase for the various skills of Sam Rockwell, including his tendency to dance in film.

“The Real Chuck Barris”.  A brief collection of footage with the real Chuck Barris.

Gong Show Acts.  A collection of gong show footage shot that may or may not have made it into the film.

Final Thoughts: 

I have long been a fan of this film, which was underseen and overlooked at the time.  I believe it has since found a small fanbase that holds it up as a strong dark comedy and between this film and Moon (among other roles), Sam Rockwell has certainly created a strong fanbase for himself.  Thankfully the Blu-ray presentation captures this film’s style quite well, with its fantastic picture quality and a pretty sturdy audio track.  The extras have all been ported over from the DVD, but they are still worth delving into.  Clooney has since made a number of other mostly solid films, but I still hold his Confessions of a Dangerous Mind the highest.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    LOVE this movie and was the first to show that Clooney had the chops as a director.