Monday, June 9, 2008

Artists Only: Matchstick Men

"Matchstick Men" shows up movies such as The Grifters because it is intelligent as well as slick. Nicolas Cage is Roy Waller, a veteran con man/OCD neat freak (stained carpets make him flip out), who is living a pretty routine life. In fact, routine is his life. His partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell, with a touch of wit), is a polar opposite, but still, they work well together and they get the job done. A pill problem sends Waller to his psychiatrist, Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman), who notifies him (after Roy tells him to call his wife for him) that he has a daughter, named Angela. Angela is played by Alison Lohman, who is convincing as a teenager, although she was not close to being one when she shot this film. She plays the part well, though, with a charming sense and a real chemistry with Cage on-screen. After a while (after his daughter starts crashing at his place), he breaks it to her what his real occupation is (he originally told her he was an antique salesman). She wants to help and so on and so forth. As a subplot, Roy and Frank are working on a long con to trick Chuck (Bruce McGill). Anyways, that's not exactly extremely important to this review right now. Just to tell you, the next part is a spoiler, and if you want to enjoy the full experience of the movie, I suggest that you stop reading. I am only including this for the purpose of discussion. My advice for those who decide not to keep reading is to view multiple times. What happens later is that Angela isn't Roy's daughter and that she is only there to get his coveted Safety Deposit Box passcode to take the money and Frank. So basically Frank is a real son of a gun here (or to use the modern phraseology, a dirty rotter). So Roy is the (cigarette) butt of the joke and loses out on tons of money. He ends up (in a cheesy tack-on ending) being a carpet (ha, ha, ha) salesman and marrying a grocery clerk that he likes and making tongue-in-cheek parting remarks with his now grown up daughter (she's 15, so that's pretty darn old, ain't it?). I really wished they didn't do this. Anyways, Nicolas Cage is amazing in his part, and from this movie and The Family Man and Adaptation, he has proved to be the leading authority on the slick/nervous guy. Rockwell is at his smarmy best, playing a real smarty of a partner. The supporting cast is good, too. I also liked the many cons in this movie, especially the lottery ticket one (which I won't spoil). Bottom line: Ridley Scott is doing very well. A

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