A rather surprising turn for Ridley Scott there - probably the
"smallest" film he's ever done, which harks back to Thelma And Louise
than to anything else he's done in recent years (Gladiator, G.I Jane,
Black Hawk Down, and back to Alien and Blade Runner). We have a very
personal, up-close light drama here. Con artist movies have been
swarming the theaters lately, but Matchstick Men is far more
intelligent and more surprising, not to mention well-acted, written and
directed, than Supercast films Heist and The Score. Nicolas Cage, after
several years of B-action movies (Gone In 60 Seconds, 8 mm, The Rock,
Face/Off...) makes a welcome return to what he does best - disturbed,
neurotic, sensitive individuals (a comeback that got off to a good
start on the schizophrenic Adaptation) - and delivers an Oscar
nomination-worthy performance as con artist Roy Waller. Roy discovers a
long-lost daughter, played brilliantly by Alison Lohman - also Oscar
material. The relationship between the two is well crafted, and the
story wonderfully written. Sam Rockwell also makes a fine contribution
as Roy's partner.
Elements of the plot may owe much to many other films - The Sting, perhaps Jacky Brown, and there's a bit of Leon (AKA The Professional) in Roy's relationship with his daughter, trying to balance a life of crime with a newfound family, and Lohman's performance is no less charming than that of Natalie Portman on that memorable classic. Worthy of praise is Ridley's directing, which proves he can make a small human theater piece as well as grandiose historical epics and sci-fi odysseys. The editing is wonderful, well visualizing Roy's condition and giving the movie an apt atmosphere. Overall, Matchstick Men is one of the freshest films of the year, and a very enjoyable watch.
Meet Roy and Frank, a couple of professional small-time con artists. What Roy, a veteran of the grift, and Frank, his ambitious protégé, are swindling these days are "water filtration systems," bargain-basement water filters bought by unsuspecting people who pay ten times their value in order to win bogus prizes like cars, jewelry and overseas vacations--which they never collect. These scams net the flim-flam men a few hundred here, another thousand there, which eventually adds up to a lucrative partnership. Roy's private life, however, is not so successful. An obsessive-compulsive agoraphobe with no personal relationships to call his own, Roy is barely hanging on to his wits, and when his idiosyncrasies begin to threaten his criminal productivity he's forced to seek the help of a psychoanalyst just to keep him in working order. While Roy is looking for a quick fix, his therapy begets more than he bargained for: the revelation that he has a teenage daughter--a child whose existence he...
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