Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Before you get too excited, this is not the latest in the Confessions of series of films – no window cleaners, no driving instructors or milkman in sight. Instead we have George Clooney’s directorial debut chronicling the confessions of Chuck Barris, a TV game show producer/host who later tried to convince everyone that he was also a CIA assassin.

Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) dreams of a glamorous life creating and hosting TV shows. He has almost achieved his dream a few times and although not married, he does have a semi-steady relationship with free-loving hippy chick Penny (Drew Barrymore). One day he is approached by Jim Byrd (George Clooney) with a proposition – become a freelance assassin for the CIA (think of it as a hobby).

Barris agrees and even after his big break he continues to assassinate on the CIA’s behalf. Barris’s career took of with his groundbreaking shows such as The Gong Show, The Dating Games (template for UK’s Blind Date) and The Newlywed Game. These shows were deemed the lowest denomination of TV, the tasteless trash that had no shame. So Barris continues his life with the CIA using his game show persona as cover, travelling the world assassinating targets, pretending to be a chaperone for winners of the TV shows.

When Barris’s secret life begins to take over his real life, Barris falls into a twisting web of double crosses and a mole inside the CIA – but who is it? It could be Byrd, Patricia (Julia Roberts) a femme fatale CIA agent, Keeler (Rutger Hauer) a fellow assassin or even Barris himself?

Based on the real Chuck Barris’ unauthorised autobiography, the claims of the Barris being a CIA assassin have been laughed off by most of the people who knew him. Barris himself refuses to comment one way or the other nowadays.

The screenplay by professional weirdo Charlie Kaufman, the genius behind Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, is unfortunately dull and poorly paced. The entertaining parts of the film tend to revolve around the antics around the game shows as the assassinations tend to rather dull affairs (bar the one involving Rutger Hauer).

Performances are well below par for almost everyone involved, with the exception of Sam Rockwell. It’s a real shame that the character is shallow and who undergoes no change or epiphanies, resulting in a fairly annoying man. George Clooney, complete with silly moustache, deadpans his way through the whole film and Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts are in thankless roles. In fact Julia Roberts performance is so bad it’s startling, definitely one of the most smug and yet unconvincing stints for her. There are cameos by Clooney’s regular co-star chums such as Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (both unspeaking and less than a few seconds; neither notable or memorable).

There are some promising directorial touches from George Clooney such as blood spreading across a swimming pool and the opening in a squalid hotel room. The weak link is the story, it’s a missed opportunity; a premise that could have been so much more but unfortunately without any palpable motivation.

The trailer for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind promises a hip, trendy, surreal black comedy, but the film only suggests at the goods promised. No zippy pacing and definitely thin on humour, in fact the funniest moments come from original clips from the TV shows (including the one with the woman confessing the last place her husband made love to her was in the butt – the answer she should have said was the location!). It’s a real shame that Kaufman and Clooney played the film so safe and instead of exploring any sort of dangerous mind, they managed to create a somewhat dull and quite frankly tediously smug pat on the back – a disappointing and surprisingly ordinary mess that leave the viewer wondering what the point was.

Score 4/10