Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Ridley Scott,
writer Nicholas Griffin and writer/producer Ted Griffin. Making
of; Theatrical trailer.
THE artistry of the conman is given an enticing makeover by Sir
Ridley Scott in Matchstick Men, an ingenious little crime caper
which functions on many levels.
Taking a break from his more epic productions, such as Gladiator
and Black Hawk Down,
the British director has assembled a cracking ensemble cast, who
duly deliver a part-thriller, part-family drama that dazzles for
all of the right reasons.
Nicolas Cage stars as veteran con artist, Roy, who has made a
career for himself out of swindling the vulnerable, with the assistance
of his eager protégé, Frank (Sam Rockwell), despite
the fact that he is an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobe (and chain
smoker), with no personal relationship to call his own.
As his idiosyncrasies threaten to undermine his criminal activity,
however, he is forced to seek help in the form of Bruce Altmans
psycho-analyst, a path which ultimately leads him to the 14-year-old
Angela (Alison Lohman), the daughter he always thought, but never
confirmed, he had.
Her arrival, while at first disruptive, eventually allows Roy
to experience the joys of fatherhood, but place a question mark
over his partnership with Frank, as well as jeopardising one of
the biggest scams the two have put together.
To complicate matters still further, Angela develops a fascination
for her fathers way of life and, against his better judgement,
eventually convinces him to teach her some of the tricks of his
Given that Sir Ridley has developed a reputation as one of cinemas
leading visual stylists, it is refreshing to find the director
almost reigning himself in for a while, allowing his actors to
take centre stage and really bringing out the best in Ted Giffins
The showy camera techniques are reserved for accentuating Roys
personal neuroses, and never threaten to undermine or detract
from the emotional core of the movie, which is the relationship
between Roy and Angela.
As such, both Cage and Lohman excel, with the latter, in particular,
proving to be something of a revelation, expertly tapping into
the confused adolescence of her teenage role, despite the fact
that she is approaching her 24th birthday in real life.
The scenes between the two are touchingly portrayed, without
ever becoming too sentimental, and help the movie succeed as well
as it does on such a personal level.
Strong, too, is the chemistry between Cage and the ever-dependable
Rockwell, whose relationship is played in similar fashion to the
partnership between George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Oceans
Eleven - its no coincidence that both films came from
the pen of the same scriptwriter and just a minor quibble that
Rockwell isnt allowed more screen time.
The cons, too, are neatly played, with Sir Ridley striking a
near-perfect balance between the many facets of the story - and
pulling off a number of his own little cons along the way.
The trick, for audiences, therefore, is not to allow this smart
little movie to pass you by.