CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND

The danger of emptiness

GEORGE Clooney introduces himself as a director with this visually attractive black comedy. Based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of television host and producer Chuck Barris, Clooney's film reinforces Barris's claim that he lived a secret life as a hitman for the CIA.
Sam Rockwell plays Barris, a dreamer who moves to New York to start a TV career. He has his first successful game show, The Dating Game, but soon is recruited by CIA Special Agent Jim Byrd (Clooney) to become a hired killer for the federal government.


CLOONEY recruits a TV hitman.
photo: SPI International

GEORGE Clooney introduces himself as a director with this visually attractive black comedy. Based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of television host and producer Chuck Barris, Clooney's film reinforces Barris's claim that he lived a secret life as a hitman for the CIA.

Sam Rockwell plays Barris, a dreamer who moves to New York to start a TV career. He has his first successful game show, The Dating Game, but soon is recruited by CIA Special Agent Jim Byrd (Clooney) to become a hired killer for the federal government. As Barris's subsequent shows (The Newlywed Game, The Gong Show) take off, he uses them as a front for his undercover job, chaperoning winning couples all over the world while performing his deadly duties.

Throughout the movie, bright pop images from the 1960s and 1970s are intercut with dark spy-scenes and real interviews with Barris's friends.

Along the way, Barris builds a passionate relationship with the assassin Patricia (Julia Roberts). After he kills her with poison she prepared for him, he puts a pen in her hand and writes the words "NO LOVE". It seems like Barris was always running from love and never really loved anyone. The only person who truly loved him and stayed by his side, despite his infidelities and personal emotional failings, was Penny, the sweet character played by Drew Barrymore.


GAME show host and hired gun Barris found it difficult to love.
photo: SPI International

As a viewer you want to fall in love with the movie and you are expecting a real confession. But the cold and slow spy scenes are boring and Barris is not really baring his soul the way one would wish.

Rockwell is definitely the star of the movie. He makes an excellent, original interpretation of Barris's verbal and physical affectations. But neither Rockwell nor Clooney are successful in getting us to feel either love or loathing for the man and also fail to explain Barris's motivations for becoming a killer. Clooney is the right guy to comment on celebrity and pop culture areas, but the meetings with shadowy figures leave him at a loss.

The movie feels like it's going to be great, and it carries on feeling that way for a long time, but the takeoff just never happens. It's smart and stylish but it feels somehow empty at the end.

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