Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his drinking, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.
To foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity of a ruthless terrorist. But the plan backfires when the same criminal impersonates the cop with the same method.
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... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Roy (Nicolas Cage) has some problems. He suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and gets totally hysterical when people leave doors open, don't take off their shoes, get mud on his carpet, etc. He takes pills for the many problems, but he accidentally knocked them down the garbage disposal and is a big frantic mess now, complete with nervous ticks of the face and exclamations of "mmm..." at the end of his sentences.
That's a problem that severely interferes with his job as a con artist. He's not a con man, he's not a rip-off man, he's a con artist, with added emphasis on the "artist" part. He views his job as a beauty, a sort of majestic way of expressing himself, but not really, that's a lie, it's just something that makes him sleep better at night.
He hates his job because it makes him feel dirty. It's not fun ripping off old people or fat people, but he is a high school drop out, how else can he get a decent paying job?
His partner, Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell), is a bit more at ease than Roy. He doesn't seem to mind his job all that much. Roy, on the other hand, is turning into a complete nut, and after going to a recommended psychiatrist, he musters up the courage to confront his 14-year-old daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman), who is eager to escape her controlling mother and check out her long-lost big pop.
The film has a lot of different stories going on -- the worry-wart who learns to put aside his nervous ticks, the long-lost father who reunites with his daughter, and the con artist who tries to give it up for a normal life. They all succeed as a story, but the film's only flaw is its wandering, which goes on far too long.
Who cares (and I mean that as a statement, not a question). The film is one of the great entertainments of the year. It has twists, turns, and a big streak of enjoyability running through it.
Nicolas Cage is on a winning streak. First 2002's Oscar-winning "Adaptation," now this (rumored to be entered into the Oscar race for 2004). Who would'a thunk it?
Sam Rockwell ("Confessions of a Dangerous Mind") continues to impress, while Alison Lohman (a 20-something actress playing a teenager) shines and convincingly portrays exactly what the character needs.
Ridley Scott ("Alien"), the infamous British director, uses some great camera techniques here -- filmed in a blue shade with lots of different camera flashes, he subtly forces the audience into Roy's head, especially during sequences when Roy is having little breakdowns and the people and objects around him start moving at warp-speed.
I'll admit that I'm a big fan of con man movies because I find them amusing. But "Matchstick Men" is not really a con man movie -- it's a movie about a con man who has to cope with his job and private life. And a movie about a con man who finds he has a daughter. And a con man who gets conned. It's all enjoyable, and though the film is long, I never felt very bored by it at all -- it sustained my interest throughout its running time. That's rarer and rarer nowadays.
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