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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.67%
Worth A Look40%
Just Average: 17.33%
Pretty Crappy: 10.67%
Sucks: 1.33%

4 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Matchstick Men
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by Scott Weinberg

"Ridley Scott tones things down for a clever collection of cons."
4 stars

Though commonly known - and often derided - as a "visuals first, little else after" filmmaker, it's clear that Ridley Scott simply likes to tell varied and compelling stories. And since he cut his teeth on TV commercials, it only stands to reason that his directorial sensibilities would lean more than a little to the Visual side. Or maybe it's just that he always gets the flashy scripts while the "people stories" come from other filmmakers. In many ways, "Matchstick Men" is a healthy step forward for Scott; sort of a Less is More thing.

The movie world is laden with great Con Flicks...and I'm not talking about Prison Movies. The Sting, Sneakers, Diggstown, House of Games, Traveler and several others have taught us something: clever screenwriters love nothing more than to devise a crafty con - and then pull it off in front of millions of moviegoers. Though Matchstick Men's screenplay (courtesy of Nicholas & Ted Griffin and based on the novel by Eric Garcia) doesn't approach the success of a truly Mametesque con-job, it acquits itself reasonably well without tipping its hand too frequently. You may predict some of the twists, but probably not all of 'em.

Nicolas Cage is con artist and obsessive-compulsive tic generator Roy Waller. His daily routine a series of chants, whoops and whispered cadences, Roy (along with his devoted partner Frank) enjoys a generally comfortable life as a scammer extraordinaire. Aside from his overtly bizarre behavior (which thankfully can be allayed via prescription), Roy's got it made: a nice house, a few good friends, and a large stash of cash tucked away for a rainy day.

All of this begins to unravel when Roy discovers he has a teenage daughter.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking already: con-man and a newfound con-daughter. Seen this idea before, only it was assassins and the movie was in French. But the factors that elevate Matchstick Men above familiarity are several and noteworthy: a winning cast, a screenplay that offers a few surprises along the way, and (most shockingly) a sincere sense of heart scattered amidst the "convoluted confidence game" shenanigans.

Adding to his string of sadsack oddball performances, Nicolas Cage is quite good here, reining in the tics and contortions to just this side of annoying - while still delivering a character that we grow to care about despite our initial misgivings. Alison Lohman is quite charming and bubbly, bringing a welcome lightness into a generally grey-tinged flick. And the always-great Sam Rockwell does his thing to a tee; he steals a few scenes whole and presents a background character who's entirely fascinating...but he also knows how to fade out a little when the leading man has the spotlight. I'd wager that just about any flick improves with some Sam Rockwell in it.

We know going in that Roy will become a better person for having this new daughter, that she in turn will learn a few life lessons via Dad's ultra-slick street smarts, and that more than a few characters are going to get screwed, duped and left in the lurch. With Matchstick Men the destination is pretty clear; it's the travel time that's most entertaining.

So it's a low-key and relatively flash-free little character study for Ridley Scott, eh? I'm sure he enjoyed a CGI-free set for a change, and good for him. While most filmmakers equate bigger flicks with bigger respect, it's a welcome sight when a known visual stylist opts to tone things down and make with some quiet humanity. Those who've forgotten all about "Thelma and Louise" and consider Scott 'all style and no substance' may find themselves rethinking that philosophy.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8130&reviewer=128
originally posted: 09/12/03 02:44:34
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User Comments

8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Nicholas Cage is great in all his films. 5 stars
5/17/07 ES yeah, predictable but enjoyable none the less 4 stars
6/24/06 MP Bartley Too contrived by half. Utterly predictable. 2 stars
4/29/06 Agent Sands Very comfortably atmospheric con flick with a brilliant cast and production values. 5 stars
2/22/06 Frank Rountree Cage was great! good movie 4 stars
10/25/05 roy holt Rockwell is outstanding 5 stars
10/23/05 Indrid Cold Extremely well done, but mega twist endings are getting tiresome. 5 stars
7/07/05 ALDO enjoyable movie...well worth a look 4 stars
7/06/05 Steve Newman Guessed the end with 20 mins to go - what a great film though - go see!!! 5 stars
1/27/05 Charlie Nic provides another amazing performance. Hilarious, with the OCD and all. 5 stars
12/29/04 R.W. Welch Too contrived for its own good, but manages to be entertaining enough. 3 stars
11/27/04 Monday Morning Stylish & well done but why did Nic choose that particular psychiatrist? A real stretch. 4 stars
11/11/04 Phil M. Aficionado Loses one star for some "stretches", but very entertaining and well done by cast. 4 stars
11/01/04 Marc Tebo Great movie all around...How did Cage & Lohman not get nominated?? Wonderfully acted!! 5 stars
10/23/04 ODH Its OK, but the ending while good does leave some loose ends 3 stars
9/25/04 VIctor Cage needs career counseling; his everyman stunts are getting tiresome like all his movies 1 stars
9/23/04 Agent Sands One of the greatest con movies ever made. Either flawless or nearly so. Never gets old. 5 stars
9/13/04 Shams Huque Damn good! Cage is great as always. 5 stars
9/05/04 jmsynth Whether you love or hate the ending, this is something of a must-see 4 stars
7/24/04 chandrasekar cage rocks with his performance 4 stars
6/06/04 Ry Good Movie, nice ending. 4 stars
6/02/04 Agent Sands Thumbs way up!!! Nic Cage seems to really like these neurotic types, & Ridley diversifies. 5 stars
5/03/04 Paul This is an interesting twist on a con movie 5 stars
4/10/04 alan this was supposed to be a comedy, right? 3 stars
4/09/04 teresa brown i loved it 5 stars
3/12/04 Rebecca I must have missed something here 3 stars
3/11/04 jimmy two times great littlle big film. very touching. surprised me in how good it was. 5 stars
3/08/04 ownerofdajoint what a great flick!! 5 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser A really intelligent and "something-between-the-ears" film! Congrats! 5 stars
3/06/04 Helen Bradley Cage is great excellent film script acting 5 stars
3/03/04 Star-Crosser Resfreshing and character-driven. Ranks among Scott's best. 5 stars
2/26/04 Ben Ziegler Cage is superb, Rockwell is Rockwell and Lohman is frickin adorable. Clever and cool. 4 stars
12/01/03 Brianna omg! it was so good, 5 stars
10/29/03 zeb woodhatch a twist to knoch your socks off 4 stars
10/18/03 greg Bad con film, Great character study! 3 stars
10/12/03 John Bale Twitchy Cage & quirky Lohman excell in this compassionate story with a sting in the tail. 5 stars
10/05/03 Doc Hollywood I agree Allison Lohman acted Nick Cage off the stage. Slow start but enjoyable. 4 stars
10/01/03 Bill Cumberson Allison Lohman steals the show 4 stars
9/26/03 Quizical A very good movie until the last 10 minutes when everything turns very lame. 3 stars
9/26/03 Mr. Hat An absolute hands-down major fucking masterpiece up until the last 10 minutes. 4 stars
9/24/03 jawsboy24 Not bad. Cage does a great job! Lohman is also great! Rockwell rocks!! Not bad. Good acting 4 stars
9/22/03 Titus Fun movie, nice to see Cage doing some acting. 4 stars
9/21/03 Josh Fun and engaging; Cage is fantastic. 4 stars
9/18/03 Tom good acting; plenty of twists 4 stars
9/17/03 Superdave i loved this movie, fuckin outstanding 5 stars
9/15/03 david i liked it 4 stars
9/14/03 Benjamin Leatherman First two-thirds are good, then it descends into maudlin and tedium 3 stars
9/05/03 Hart so clever and funny, As Good As It Gets meets Ocean 11 5 stars
9/05/03 Michelle stylish, quirky, and fun. the acting is awesome. 5 stars
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  12-Sep-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Feb-2004



Directed by
  Ridley Scott

Written by
  Ted Griffin
  Nick Griffin

  Nicolas Cage
  Sam Rockwell
  Alison Lohman
  Bruce Altman
  Bruce McGill
  Fran Kranz

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