Matchstick Men

Movie Information

In Brief: There's no denying that Ridley Scott is a stylish director. The question has always been just what that style was. There's no overriding visual or thematic quality to his work in a filmography that has encompassed just about every genre there is — with varying degrees of success. Of no help whatever in pinning Scott down is Matchstick Men (2003), a largely genial story of con-men that turns into a case of who exactly is conning whom. At its center is Nicolas Cage — before he became a punchline — in the role of con-artist Roy Waller. A genius at the con, Roy may be, but he's also a psychological mess, with all manner of phobias, tics, outbursts — and a slightly alarming tendency to just zone out in the middle of a con. It's also a perfect role for Cage and allows Scott to add to Roy's twitchiness with jump cuts. Against his better judgment, Roy lets his partner (Sam Rockwell) talk him into a lucrative, but potentially dangerous scam. Complicating matters is the arrival on the scene of his never before acknowledged daughter (Alison Lohman). This is the sort of film where plot is just about everything, so the less said, the better. All in all an enjoyable, if fairly inconsequential, movie.
Genre: Crime Caper
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill
Rated: PG-13



I don’t remember now why I palmed Matchstick Men off on somebody else to review, but I managed to miss it altogether when it came out. I don’t feel like I missed anything much in so doing, but I have to say, when I did see it, I greatly enjoyed watching it — at least most of the time. As slick, stylish entertainment that doesn’t pretend to be anything else — except perhaps as clever as your proverbial firkin of simians — it’s pretty much everything you could hope for. Cage and Sam Rockwell are a good match as the con men of the title, and the fact that Cage’s exaggerated twitching subsides as the film progresses is a decided bonus. (Yes, it’s funny at first — and Cage was a man just born to twitch — but by the time the film retires this schtick, I was more than ready.) Unsurprisingly — since this is a very Hollywood movie — it’s the presence of his hitherto unknown daughter that provides the catalyst for his transition to normalcy, or an approximation thereof. As I noted above, this is a film that works better if you know as little as possible going in, so I’m saying no more about the plot. I will, however, say that one of the chief delights here is going back over it in your mind and seeing if it really fits together.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Matchstick Men Sunday, July 26, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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