Movie Review: Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002)


Directed by: George Clooney

Starring: SAM FUCKING ROCKWELL!!, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer

First, some background on this film’s creation is in order…

Before Jerry Springer. Before Maury Povich(you are NOT the father!). Before the guidos on the Jersey Shore. Before TLC became a channel about women with clown car vaginas, midgets and pedophilic beauty pageants. Before all this TV schlock, there was Chuck Barris. The (in)famous producer of such TV “classics” as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, Barris was churning out shows spotlighting people pathetically making fools of themselves just to be on TV before it became a thing. His shows were raunchy, exploitative and critically lambasted, yet no one could stop watching them. In 1984, Barris published a memoir titled Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind(shortened to COADM from now on), chronicling his career and life. While the memoir included the expected view from behind the scenes into his career, Barris also dropped a bombshell on the reading public: he claimed that, while working his career as a TV executive, he also led a double life as an assassin for the CIA.

This revelation has been met with many responses, but indifference isn’t one of them. Opinions range from accusing Barris of blatant lies, to belief that they were the ramblings of a man slowly losing his sanity, to believing Barris to be stealthily writing a first-person novel and masking it as his own life. However, friends, loved ones and coworkers of Barris reacted with surprisingly little surprise, talking about changes in mood, frequent disappearances and suspicious movements on Barris’s part. His closest people thought that there WAS a possibility, however ridiculous it may seem, that Barris was telling the truth.

The rights for COADM were kicked around studios for years since the novel’s publication, going so far as to having Bryan Singer attached as director and JOHNNY FUCKING DEPP scheduled to play Barris. Ultimately, George Clooney ended up in the director’s chair, working off a script by legendary scribe Charlie Kauffman(Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind), and Sam Rockwell as Barris.

I don’t know how good any other version of COADM might have been, but I SERIOUSLY doubt it would have been better than this one, cause this film is a fucking masterpiece.

The film starts with Chuck Barris’s early days, showing him trying to make it in the flourishing television industry of the 1960s. He eventually meets the love of his life, Penny, and their relationship is one of the running plots of the film. The film covers his triumphs and failures during the early days of his career, until he finally meets Jim Byrd, a CIA spook who recruits Barris to be a hitman. The movie then does double duty, showing the progress of Barris’s career as a television producer(including his creation of The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game) and his alternate life as a killer. During his killing trips, he meets fellow CIA assassins Patricia Watson and Keeler, with whom he forms an on-off relationship and a lasting friendship, respectively.

I’m gonna stop the review of the film there and start doing the critique, cause the film goes in directions you simply must not have spoiled. It’s truly a fucking joy of a film, funny, dramatic and sometimes even heartbreaking. This movie is George Clooney’s directorial debut, and goddamn, did he ever make an impact. The movie is tightly shot, perfectly paced. It should be shown in every film school in this country. This is also helped by Charlie Kauffman’s incredible script, which has the perfect mix of suspense, drama and black comedy. There’s never a boring moment, and every line that comes out of a character’s mouth is gold.

…Aaaaaaaaaaaand the protagonist is Sam Rockwell. I’ve already showered Rockwell with praise as one of my absolute favorite actors, but this film… This film is his tour-de-force performance. This is the role that made everyone sit up and take notice. He completely nails every comedic, dramatic and tragic moment of the film to pitch-perfection. Barris is a flawed character, but one you can’t help like. He’s a smart, charming fast-talker, easily throwing out the snark with a smile and a wink. He’s also a character in pain from years of lies, both in his TV career and his killing job. Rockwell portrays Barris’s eventual breakdown convincingly, and easily makes us empathize with his plight. Simply put, this is every Sam Rockwell fan’s favorite movie.

The supporting cast is also equally excellent. Drew Barrymore is charming and likeable as Penny, and greatly portrays a woman who has to live with loving a man while never being able to completely give herself to him the way she wants. George Clooney as agent Jim Byrd is hilarious playing the deadpan, stereotypical CIA spook, but can also become genuinely scary at a moment’s notice. Rutger Hauer is supremely likeable as Keeler, a fellow CIA assassin who’s become jaded and philosophical from years of killing, and who serves as a reflection of Barris’s possible future. I personally don’t like Julia Roberts, I’ve never understood her charm, but she totally kills this performance. Roberts’s Patricia is seductive and dangerous.

COADM is cinematic gold, it is in my opinion a flawless film. Perfect casting, masterful direction and super writing, a winning formula every time. My highest recommendation.

Oh, and Rockwell dances A LOT in the movie, hell yeah!