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Matchstick Men
2003 - PG-13 - 118 Mins.
Director: Ridley Scott
Producer: Jack Rapke
Written By: Ted and Nick Griffin
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce McGill, Bruce Altman
Review by: Harrison Cheung
   
Super stylist director, Ridley Scott (GLADIATOR, BLADE RUNNER) tries his hand with an interesting drama about the life of a con artist who is riddled with guilt about his lot in life: a career of grifting, a lost wife, and a lost child. It's a great role for Nicolas Cage who continues to redeem himself from his recent hammy title roles in CAPTAIN CORELLI's MANDOLIN or the bland FAMILY MAN. MATCHSTICK MEN also stars the always interesting Sam Rockwell (CHARLIE'S ANGELS) as his partner in crime, Frank, and newcomer Alison Lohman as Angela.

It's easy to think of Spielberg's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN when you watch MATCHSTICK MEN. Both movies were about con artists and both were directed by men who are best known for their visual style. But CATCH ME IF YOU CAN was much more joyful in portraying the cons while MATCHSTICK MEN, with Cage's constant ticks and frequent appointments with his shrink and dependency on unidentified medication, is a more solemn film in spite of its humor.

Like CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, MATCHSTICK MEN has a look that portrays Los Angeles as clean and gleaming. In Spielberg's case, it's a visual homage to the optimistic spirit of the jet-setting 1960's. In Ridley Scott's movie, it's a strong visual contrast. The movie could have been set in the 1960's or today - the building are perfect, only the people are decrepit. But although Spielberg's movie lightly touched upon the emotional impact of the life of a con artist, MATCHSTICK MEN is all about the emotional baggage. There are some interesting 'tricks' Cage pulls - much to the delight of his newfound daughter, Angela (Lohman), but this story is more about redemption and less about the joy of the deal.

The story in a nutshell? Long time con artist, Roy (Cage), is dependent on drugs to control his phobias and ticks. When his old doctor skips town, he ends up with a new psychiatrist who convinces him to confront his past. Roy thinks about the life he might have had with a wife who had dumped him because of his chosen career path of crime. Believing that he has a daughter from that first relationship, he seeks her out and tries to establish a bond.

Cage strikes a perfect balance between comedy and pathos with his ticks. Rockwell, as the slimy partner, is always entertaining but needs to be careful about typecasting. And Lohman is bubbly as the 14-year old Britney-Spears-pretends-to-be-a-virgin type. It's a strong cast without a bad note anywhere. Best of all, Ridley Scott drops his trademark smoke and shadows for a subtle touch. And like CATCH, MATCHSTICK has a fun, nostalgic Frank Sinatra lounge lizard soundtrack.

As you mighty expect with a con artist movie, there are a lot of plot twists in MATCHSTICK MEN, some knee-slappingly funny, others quite sad. But the ending of the film was unsatisfying. I don't think all movies should end like a Spielberg movie with one big round of applause or a perfectly symmetrical bookend but MATCHSTICK MEN needed a good cry, a slap in the face or some blinding violence before I was ready to see the end credits roll.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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