Matchstick Men (2003)
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Review Date: September 12, 2003
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Nicholas Griffin, Ted Griffin
Producers: Ridley Scott, Sean Bailey
Nicolas Cage as Roy
Alison Lohman as Angela
Sam Rockwell as Frank
A man with a severe case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) finds out that he's got a 14-year old daughter about whom he never knew. When she shows up on his doorstep one day, he's forced to deal with her, while at the same time, continuing to wrestle with his daily rituals and professional responsibilities. Oh, and what are those professional responsibilities? He's a conman. Needless to say, something has to "give" and eventually...does.
This is a very hard film for me to review without getting into specifics about the plot, so I will try to be as vague as possible, since I absolutely hate spoilers in reviews and wouldn't want to partake in them myself. That said, I really enjoyed this film through and through. Everything from its peppy soundtrack (love the Sinatra tunes), its lead actors, its variety of plots, its many "con jobs" pulled throughout...all very cool. I also liked how it mixed a number of elements like humor, drama and emotion, while continually maintaining an even air of authenticity. Some films try to balance different ingredients as such, but aren't able to do so, but the folks behind this film were able to make it funny in one scene, tense in another, sad in the next and so forth. I also appreciated how the viewer was taken along for the ride with the "mark" in the film. Very ingenious and cleverly constructed. You really got a sense of what it felt like to be taken for a ride. Congrats to all. The actual con itself was also brilliantly orchestrated and along with a few twists, turns and didn't-see-that-comings, came together in the end with an unexpected moment that even the most trained Mamet-head might not catch (I know I didn't). I guess a lot of that success should be attributed to the actors, all of whom turn in great performances and really draw you into their "game". Nobody likes being suckered, but I have to admit that the sucker in this film really took it well and so did I. The budding relationship between Cage and Lohman was also particularly cute, well developed and enriching. One of the more engaging father/daughter "love stories" that I've ever seen. Oh, and in case you still weren't aware of Lohman: she's the next "big thing" and deservedly so!

The film is also able to balance three subplots at the same time, starting off as a character study of a man with psychological issues, downshifting into a straightforward con flick and ultimately mixing in a little "father knows best". Great chemistry between Cage and Lohman helped concretize the latter angle, as well as the adorable factor in Lohman's case and the neurotically charming factor in Cage's. The scene in which she breaks down in the car almost broke my heart. Cute gift, too. But the film had another great relationship that worked and that was the one between Cage and his protégé/partner Sam Rockwell. Once again, a nice flow between the actors made it happen, but even more so, the screenplay, which didn't sell the two characters as one-dimensional bastards just looking out for big money, but actual guys who liked each other, respected one another and who just happened to be experts in their field of crime. All of that, combined with the film's unique style here and there, fun score, ultimate con of cons and strange, but complementary, conclusion...made it one of the more entertaining films that I've seen in a while (even the "mark" felt like he had gained a lot more than lost in the end-now that's a feat!) I don't think the movie will "fly" with everyone, in fact, it might actually be a little "too smart for its own good", but I truly enjoyed it from start to finish and especially appreciated its performances. Also, is it me or did the character played by Lohman remind anyone else of a young Alabama Worley from TRUE ROMANCE?? Wow, this film would be a great prologue to that one...this is where it all started for l'il Alabama! PS: The fact that actress Alison Lohman is actually 24 years old in real life, blows my mind!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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