Matchstick Men (2003)

reviewed by
Karina Montgomery

Matchstick Men
Rental with Snacks

The preview to this movie can be a little confusing. Does Nicholas Cage have OCD, or is it a sham? It seems real enough, but when he's on the job (as a con artist) he is practically cured. Cage and his partner Frank (Sam Rockwell) run a little clever clever business of grifting and counter grifting that is pretty impressive. The two actors have super sparks between them on camera and all I could think, every time Sam came back, was, "Where has Sam been? More Sam!" In retrospect, it makes sense why Rockwell's character made the film more alive. It has nothing to do with Cage's performance. He strikes a great balance between smooth operator, sensitive new age crook, and tic-ridden misfit. I spent a lot of the movie waiting - for what? Something to happen? A general point? An explanation of why a man that fastidious about dirt and germs would smoke like he does?

Into Cage's life drops a daughter he never knew he had, who takes to him and his life like she was born to it; and the plot line of their coming together complements the plot line of him falling apart. The third plot line surfaces like a dolphin at sea, that little business we call sham. The actual mechanical aspect of the introduction of the daughter seems to grind the movie to a halt, and it's not until Sam Rockwell comes back that it picks back up again. More Sam please! (And if you didn't see him in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, it's now available on video so go see it.)

The acting and dialogue and story are all good, but somehow the whole thing feels really poky and tentative. I just couldn't put my finger on it. Ridley Scott is not known for quirky character dramas, but he is known for pacing and tension, and while I was in the theatre, I feel like he missed the boat. He does his trademark high contrast smoky rooms adding mood upon mood, even when it's not called for. The preview seems to want to market the film as a wacky character comedy (centered on Cage's foibles) but this movie is about the value of deception to survive life. However, as your obedient humble servant, I have to say that the movie pays off, and much of what was sort of bothering me in the back of my mind just stopped bothering me (though it was never justified).

The only reason it gets just Rental plus Snacks is the general sense of drag during the course of the film - I am often duped by a surprisingly satisfying conclusion, but this time it was not enough to really justify the rest of the disjointedness.

-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ These reviews (c) 2003 Karina Montgomery. Please feel free to forward but credit the reviewer in the text. Thanks. You can check out previous reviews at: and - the Online Film Critics Society - Hollywood Stock Exchange Brokerage Resource

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X-RT-RatingText: 2.5/5

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