Matchstick Men (2003) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
355 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A fine brew of psychological character and crime story. A-
Quinoa198415 September 2003
Ridley Scott and Nicolas Cage deliver some of their best and most intelligent work in a few years, even if Matchstick Men is not quite either's great contribution for this year in film. What they have done, from Eric Garcia's novel (adapted by The Griffins), come off rather entertaining, if anything else, and boasts much more thought than would usually be attributed to such a Hollywood film. Nicolas Cage, who plays Roy, part anxious/obsessive compulsive, part sly con man, and part father to a daughter he never knew he had, is a main reason to see this movie. His performance is on par with someone like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets for watch-ability of a truly sad lifestyle, and while Nicholson's performance was and still is funnier and more charming, Cage gets so into his character, the little mannerisms that pop up more often than expected, that we feel for the guy even as his eyes get twitchy and goes over certain spots in his house like a detective. He may be the most believable obsessive compulsive/con man you'll see in a long while. Add then an outgoing, occasionally sneaky daughter (Alison Lohman in a performance that skillfully balances sweetness and irritability, sorrow and playfulness in a teenage girl) to the mix, along with a protégé-cum-partner (a cool Sam Rockwell) who has a love/loathe relationship Roy, and there's the map work for an interesting, if here and there predictable, drama/comedy/crime film.

Along with the performances, which are all above average (Cage could be deserved of an Oscar nomination come February, and Lohman could deserve the win possibly), is the visual framework that Scott pushes in each scene. By getting certain camera tricks, and fantastic editing by Dody Dorn (of 'Memento' fame), the viewer can really get into Roy's head even in the smaller scenes, the ones that have little to do with the plot and only to do with the neuroses of Roy (there is even a little touch that I loved when Roy is waiting online early in the film at the supermarket, and the music in the background is an excerpt of the mental hospital music from 'Cuckoo's Nest'). This echoes the style that Scorsese used in Bringing out the Dead, also with Cage, in moving the film to get so into the mood that the story, no matter how intriguing and important, becomes secondary.

Which brings me to my own personal beef with the movie, and that is the last fifteen minutes or so. It was clever, up to a point, but as it unfolded, no matter how much I was still emotionally involved with these people, I felt that the twists (I won't reveal them here) undermined a lot of the rest of the film. It will be based on viewer to viewer, but I just thought that it did a little too much to jab at Roy's lifestyle. And yet, when I walked out of the theater, though I wasn't sure I had seen anything spectacular, I didn't feel like I had wasted time and money either. Matchstick Men is witty, sometimes wonderful moviemaking.
112 out of 130 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Welcome back, Nick
itamarscomix24 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
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.
70 out of 83 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nice change of pace for Ridley!
supertom-324 February 2004
The latest effort from Ridley Scott equates to Spielberg's latest, Catch Me If You Can. It is a nice, technically simple film that follows their more epic, effects, and set piece driven movies preceding them. Spielberg followed Minority Report and AI, whereas Scott is following Gladiator, Hannibal and Black Hawk Down. It is a nice and welcome change of pace for a master director, as CMIYC was to Spielberg.

The film stars Nicholas Cage, who is making up for some lost years thanks to his role here and of course in Adaptation. Cage plays an obsessive compulsive con man who has an obsession of cleanliness and a fear germs and wide open spaces, and is hyped up on prescription drugs. Cage is superb here, it is a great performance, amusing and likeable. This is the sort of quirky character that brings the best out of Nic Cage. Co-starring as Cages partner in crime is the up and coming Sam Rockwell. I have been a fan of his since I first saw him in Charlie's Angels and then in his best role thus far in Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. He was superb in Confessions and looks like he could be a top new star. Rockwell plays his character here with panache. Also starring as Cages daughter who turns up out the blue is Alison Lohman. Lohman is playing a 14 year old, who Cage has never seen and didn't know of at the start of the film. Lohman is much older in real life and so playing a 14 year is something she can do well but with the maturity and actress of that actual age may not have. Lohman is a lovely presence, she is charming and sweet and endearing to the audience, she is also a good young actress.

The film is funny, charming and simplistic. It doesn't tax too much and is a quick and pleasant, much like junk food, only more good for you. I love it when Scott does his big epic and more elaborate films but this is a good change of pace, that Scott must have really enjoyed. It is something he could do with his eyes closed compared to say Gladiator.

The film is well paced and there is a great twist that lets the film end on a real high. This is a good use of a great cast, and imaginatively edited. Overall a pleasing viewing. ****
65 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wonderful 'Sting' Film with a Twist!
cariart12 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone who thinks director Ridley Scott doesn't have a gentler side (after all, GLADIATOR, HANNIBAL, and BLACK HAWK DOWN are not exactly 'touchy-feely' movies) may be in for a surprise with his latest, MATCHSTICK MEN. The story of extremely neurotic but brilliant con man Nicolas Cage ("I'm not a criminal," he explains to his shrink, "Criminals hurt people; I don't..."), discovering a daughter he never knew he had (Alison Lohman, of WHITE OLEANDER), on the eve of a big 'Sting', offers as much emphasis on his acceptance of his new parental responsibilities as on the caper he and his partner (the always watchable Sam Rockwell) are pulling off. Cage plays the role brilliantly, making his quirky character sympathetic, and Scott proves again why he is one of Hollywood's premier directors.

The success of a film like this depends on the chemistry between the leads, and Cage and Lohman are terrific together. The young actress manages to be 'sweet' without being 'innocent', and the tentative steps she and Cage take to understand each other are both believable, and touching. In one scene, he attempts to prove to her that he can cook by preparing a spaghetti dinner...after one bite, the scene shifts to the arrival of the Domino's delivery boy!

Ultimately, however, MATCHSTICK MEN is a tale of 'The Con', and Cage and Rockwell's 'Sting' against 'fat cat' Bruce McGill, while appearing deceptively simple, has a series of twists and turns, leading to a climax that is both stunning and unexpected. This is the kind of movie that will have you putting pieces together, LONG after it ends.

It is an intriguing and rewarding film, and shouldn't be missed!
67 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sustained my interest throughout
MovieAddict20168 February 2006
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.
44 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
You're not a bad guy - just not a very good one
petra_ste7 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
There is this notion Matchstick Men is a minor curiosity in Ridley Scott's filmography, some little comedy about a con artist bonding with his daughter... for me it's one of his best movies since the incredible starting streak (The Duellists, Alien, Blade Runner). A director with an amazing eye for visuals, Scott can shoot very pretty pictures but has no quality control when it comes to choosing scripts, with often disheartening results.

Matchstick Men, however, has a strong screenplay, with vivid characters and sharp dialogues. Cage, who can be a calamity in the wrong part (The Wicker Man), is smartly cast as a phobic weirdo, which allows him to unleash one of his amiably over-the-top performances. In the right role he can still knock it out of the park - I am thinking of a moment near the end, where his heartbroken sobs morph into a bark of hysterical laughter. Alison Lohman is perfect in a tricky role; Sam Rockwell and Bruce McGill give solid supporting turns.

8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nick Cage is awsome!
tpcomputerman20 September 2003
Reviewing a movie like Matchstick Men is tough because it's a con movie and as such I really can't go into the plot all that much. So, I'll just give a quick little synopsis of the plot, but really if you've seen any trailers for the movie, you know the plot pretty well.

Nicolas Cage plays Roy, a con man (or, as he likes to say, a Con Artist!) who has a lot of problems. For one, he's a compulsive cleaner, he hates the outdoors and he has lot of ticks Roy needs medication to keep him sane.

One day he knocks his pills into the sink and when he calls his doctor to get more he finds out that his doctor is no longer in town! This provides one of the funnier/saddest part of the movie. I'm not sure if it was suppose to be played up for laughs or not, the tone was kind of hard to tell, but Roy spend the next day and a half cleaning his house, his ticks got worst and well it made me feel kind of bad for him.

His partner Frank, played by Sam Rockwell provides him with the number for another psychologist who can help. Roy goes to the psychologist thinking that it'll be easy, to just ask for the pills and he'll get them. No, this guy wants to help Roy and will not give him any pills until he talks. Which, I must say, shows two things. One, Nick Cage is great when he plays these type of rolls, and two, he's damn funny. What he tells the psychologist was both funny and sad. During that time though it's reviled that Roy was married at one time, and when his wife left she was pregnant and he doesn't know what happen to the child who would be 14 by now.

After getting the pills (only a weeks worth mind you) Roy decides to find out about his daughter, but he can't because he's too scared, so after getting the number of his ex wife he asks his psychologist to make the call when he can. Later that night he gets a call from him and finds out that he has a daughter who wants to meet him.

That's as far as I'll go with the plot because the movie really picks up from there as he bonds with his new daughter and sets up a really complex and dangerous con.

Like I said, Nick Cage is great in the movie, but I also want to point out that his daughter, Angela (played by Alison Lohman) was just fantastic to watch. She really lit up the screen when she smiled and it looked like Alison Lohman was just having a ball playing her. She was your typical 14 year old (only, and this shocked me when I found out, Alison Lohman is 24 years old! If you watch it, keep that in mind and tell me she doesn't look like a 14 year old.) who knew just how to work her dad! Some of the funnier moments came after he would yell at her, then she'd start to cry and Roy would just completely collapse and start apologizing for what he said, even if he was completely right! It was just really funny.

Matchstick Men isn't a fast paced movie, it's more of a character study between Roy and Angela and how she changes his life and makes him reprioritizes his values and the way he runs his life.
60 out of 79 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good vehicle for Cage's acting ability
kieran-wright9 July 2009
After recently having the pleasure(?) of viewing one of Cage's latest offerings - 'Bangkok Dangerous', - I approached this one with a sense of confidence, as it already has such a great reputation. Ridley Scott - the renowned director of Bladerunner - has made a film of quite a different genre, so a real departure from his usual stuff, but I have to say he has come in with what I felt to be a very watchable film with some pretty complex characters thrown in. Nic Cage gets to display a good range of his acting skills. He really is the master of the facial tic as anyone thinking back to some of his earlier films (such as Vampyr's Kiss') will recall. To those who scoff at his recent choice of projects e.g. G-Force, just remember, he is an actor. You take the work while you can. Anyway, to summarise, for me, above all, this film was refreshing as all of the actors acquitted themselves really well. A polished piece of cinematography that I will definitely enjoy viewing again.
18 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Plenty of Swagger
C22Man27 June 2016
Matchstick Men represents a pleasant change of pace for Ridley Scott. For a director known for doing films that are both large thematically and in scope, it's nice to see him tackle a film that has a simple premise which allows him to build the themes that he wants to discuss. Matchstick Men is a difficult film to categorise, as is the case for most con films. It has touches of dark comedy and pieces of crime thriller, plenty of drama without losing its quirkiness. It often plays out like a character study of a man who struggles to balance his dirty deeds with his mental issues. All of this delivered in a very free-flowing and vibrant way, much like the majority of Scott's work.

At its core the film is about con man Roy Waller who suffers from serve OCD which become even worse once he loses his pills, shown in a scene that is both funny and sad where he spends a day cleaning his entire house. He then goes to see doctor who takes an interest in his life and wants to help him defeat his illness. Cage is the star centrepiece of the film. He also provides one of his best performances. In a way it is prefect casting, Cage has always been at his best playing edgy and jittery characters and here he gets a legitimate reason to act that way. His performance provides a surprising amount of sympathy as well as humour, he gets so into the character that his frequent ticks seem natural.

The story develops further when it turns out Roy has a 14 year-old daughter called Angela who he decides to meet, which leads to him struggling to balance out both sides of his life. Enter Alison Lohman who is fantastic. It's hard to believe that she is playing a character ten years younger than she was at the time given how natural her performance is. She manages to capture the essence of what a character that age would be like, without detracting from the emotional weight and likability that she brings. I also think that Sam Rockwell (who I swear has never put in a subpar performance) deserves some praise for his role as Roy's confident business partner.

It is tough to reveal much more about the plot without giving away pieces of information that might spoil its ending. Scott's direction is certainly a highlight, as usual with his films. It is possibly his most fluid film and he manages to convey Roy's breakdowns with his subtle use of the camera, whilst the frequent use of blue shade invokes the calmness of water which becomes something of a motif. From a visual standpoint the film reminded a lot of 'Catch Me If You Can' given its vibrancy and colour scheme. Adding to this is both the editing and the transitions which are seamlessly done. Hans Zimmer's score is also worth a mention, trading in his usually bombastic compositions for more jazzy and bass heavy pieces that fit the film perfectly.

The only part of the film that left me cold was its climax and its eventual twist (which I won't reveal). For me the twist did disrupt a lot of the film's emotional and grounded aspects that had been developed excellently throughout. It brings a jolt that almost pushes you out of the film and instead of feeling that the twist transformed the film into something completely different, it simply felt like an unnecessary addition. I think the film would have been even stronger had it avoided said twist all together.

Matchstick Men ends up feeling exactly like what Ridley Scott wants it to be. It's a film that blends multiple genres together and basically plays them off against the typical con man film style. It does go deeper than the story initially suggests, almost working as a psychological study of Roy and the building of his relationship with the daughter he never knew existed. On a surface level however, the film is constantly entertaining. Whether it is for the excellent acting, the charming central narrative, the tension building con or Scott's wonderful direction it doesn't really matter because all of these aspects blend with and play off of each other so well. I don't think the twist works, but it's a testament to the films strength that it isn't overly damaged by that. For me it's a film that is meant to be enjoyed on the surface, before you start to analyse what is underneath.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Start and end very good
rbverhoef30 September 2003
The little problem that 'Matchstick Men' has is that there is not a real highpoint in the movie if the ending wasn't there. I think the movie starts as a very good movie. Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage) and Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell) are con artists and the movie opens with showing how they collect some money. It is not as great as how George Clooney does it in 'Out of Sight' but it's a lot of fun. After this the movie shows who Roy is, a guy with all kind of weird things. Spasms, panic attacks, compulsive behavior. He wants things clean, he wants things a certain way, or he becomes a little crazy. He has pills for these things but he loses them and this is how he meets Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman), a psychiatrist.

Because of him Roy learns he has a 14-year old daughter Angela (Alison Lohman, who was actually 24). He wants to care for her, spend time with her, and even reveals what he really is. In a great scene she shows her father and us how she would be if she had the same job as Roy. Roy and Frank have a big job planned where they would collect 80,000 dollars from a guy named Frechette (Bruce McGill). In a way they are taking money but Roy looks at it differently. He thinks, and he is actually right, that they just give it to him. Because it is all illegal they can't complain after they are cheated.

Hoe these three big stories fit in one you have to see for yourself. The middle part is a little slow, but the ending makes up for that. All characters are played very well and Nicolas Cage is great. Ridley Scott has made another fine movie.
56 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of Cage's Best
hiddenattacker20 July 2005
Nicolas Cage plays Roy, a con artist, who has numerous psychological issues. He is an obsessive-compulsive con artist, with an insane need for neatness. Roy also suffers from agoraphobia, yet despite these problems, is an efficient con man. Much like in Luc Besson's Leon (1994), Matchstick Men adopts the same theme of a criminal figure taking in a young female apprentice. Although after the exciting exposition the film has a rather drab middle, the conclusion is stunning. This film is one of Nicolas Cage's finest, whom I have long questioned as to ability in acting. Alison Lohman does a fine job as Angela. Due to the spectacular finish, I am going to give this film ***1/2 / **** or 8/10.
39 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Surprisingly nice...
paul_haakonsen19 December 2015
I just happened to come across this movie while it was showing on TV, and I decided to actually sit down and watch it, even though it is a Nicolas Cage movie. And having seen it now, I must admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised with it.

This was, hand on Heart, actually the best of all Nicolas Cage movies that I have seen so far. Why? Well, because of the movie's riveting storyline, but more importantly because Nicolas Cage delivered the best performance of his entire career in "Matchstick Men".

The storyline in "Matchstick Men" is gripping, interesting and fast paced. More importantly, though, there are some nice change of events and plot twists along the way. I didn't see those surprise twists coming before they were actually revealed on the screen, and that kind of non-predictability is good.

The acting in the movie was really good and helped further the movie quite nicely. Especially Nicolas Cage was in his ace corner here with this particular oddball character. But also Ram Rockwell and Alison Lohman were delivering good performances.

"Matchstick Men" is a very interesting movie that is quite good and should be seen, even if you, like me, are not particularly much of a Nicolas Cage fan.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great Movie! - Intriguing characters
qmacaulay26 February 2004
I found this movie exciting & fun to watch from beginning to end. The relationship between father & daughter was extremely heartfelt and made the movie tops in my books. Amazing performance by Alison Lohman; I can't wait to see her in Big Fish. One of Nicolas Cage's better performances. In retrospect the plot is a bit far-fetched but makes up with excellent character development and emotion. Perfect movie for a father/daughter to watch together. I easily give it 9/10.
39 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Uuuuh, uuuuh… PYGMIES!"
arenatomoreira3 December 2015
Matchstick Men tells the story of con artist Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage) and his protégé Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell). The status quo of their work is disrupted when Angela (Alison Lohman), the daughter that Roy never knew he had, bumps into his life.

Cage's performance as Roy is definitely the reason why you would want to watch this movie. He got very into character, a con artist with unique psychological traits where agoraphobia and OCD do not cover it all. Throughout the movie it's impossible not to feel for Roy when his eye twitches or whenever he has a nervous breakdown. This is most likely going to be the best obsessive-compulsive character performance you'll see in a while. Roy's organized and simple life is disrupted when a smart and outgoing daughter shows up, somewhat out of nowhere. Lohman's performance as Angela could be described as a unique balance between "lovable young lady with parent issues" and "sneaky little brat that wants things her way", resulting in a very solid performance (note that she was 24 at the time, 10 years older than her character). Frank, Rockwell's character, is an eager protégé trying to convince Roy into going for big hit, instead of the usual "simple is safe". Frank's passive-aggressive patience to deal with Roy's shenanigans adds a hint of comedy to the movie.

The relationship between Roy and Angela actually remembers Leon, the Professional (1994) at some point. It's always refreshing to see small homages to certain movies – and this one by Scott and Cage is a refreshing, 9 year gap fill. Also, two other things should be mentioned. First, the small but decisive aspect that Roy always uses matchsticks to light his cigarettes, overlapping a character performance with the title. Second, it's based on a novel by Eric Garcia, with the same title as the movie.

An overall brilliant performance from these three characters and starting plot would be more than enough for anyone to watch this piece. However, the plot twist at the end, even though it's not that predictable, could be disliked by many (me included). Still, it's a movie worth watching, and one that I would recommend given Cage's performance and character.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
matchless fun
Buddy-5111 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In 'Matchstick Men,' Nicholas Cage plays a con man so obsessive/compulsive in nature that he makes Jack Nicholson in 'As Good as it Gets' look like Oscar Madison in comparison. Fastidious to the core, Roy Waller freaks out at the first sign of dust, dirt or bacteria invading his personal environment, so much so that he keeps his place not merely immaculate but almost hermetically sealed off from the outside world. Somehow, even with this crippling neurosis plaguing his every waking moment, Roy has managed to eke out a pretty decent living as a shyster, ripping off gullible common folk with his partner, Frank, played wonderfully by the gifted Sam Rockwell.

One day, into Roy's life strolls Angela, the 14-year old daughter he never knew he had. Suddenly, Roy is confronted with the need to reexamine both his life and his priorities and to make some crucial decisions about just how this strange young person should fit into the overall scheme of his existence.

Written by Nicholas and Ted Griffin and directed by Ridley Scott, 'Matchstick Men' provides a stylish, clever and witty psychological riff on the old scam artist scenario, featuring fine performances by Cage, Rockwell and Alison Lohman, as well as an intriguing visual style by Scott, cameraman John Mathieson and editor Dody Dorn which often approximates Roy's mental and emotional state. Cage once again indulges in those nervous tics that seem to have become his actor's stock-in-trade of late, but he does manage to tamp them down long enough to allow a real character of flesh-and-blood to shine through the potentially distracting surface. Alison Lohman, so brilliant in 'White Oleander' last year, makes Angela into a multi-faceted teenager who runs the gamut from immensely likable to slightly irritating – just about right for a character her age. Rockwell practically steals the show as Frank, the con man to the core who may be a bit better at his job than even Roy himself realizes. Hans Zimmer has provided a humdinger of a musical score, one reminiscent of some of Nina Rota's work for Fellini back in the early '60's.

'Matchstick Men' is not a perfect film; it sags in spots, doesn't dig deeply enough into its themes, and sometimes feels too clever and calculated for its own good. Still, the movie has an originality and an assurance that come when a group of old pros get together to have a good time and end up sharing that fun with their audience.
29 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nic Cage's greatest acting
nixskits13 December 2009
I know he won an Oscar for another film (don't get me started on that!), but this performance is really the one I regard as his crowning achievement. He's so convincing as a man who's totally out of control even when he appears to be in control that it's like a spinning top which doesn't really look like it's moving fast at all.

Sam Rockwell and Cage are partners, if you can call Cage's tic laden role a man who ever really connects with anybody at all. They con for a living and are quite accomplished at the game. So when his new challenge, a teenage daughter he had no contact with up till now, enters and shakes up his OCD world, this walking, talking repetitive routine he calls life gets flipped over into something resembling a normal existence.

The great Bruce McGill appears as someone you don't want to cross, unless it's out of his way to avoid the inevitable trouble. He fakes humbleness and charisma perfectly until the cobra he really is gets uncoiled and strikes.

This is an odd choice for Ridley Scott to direct. I'm glad he made it, as this film is as great socio-comedically as "Blade Runner" was poignantly techno-emotional. "Matchstick Men" gets under your skin, in funny and tragic ways, usually simultaneously. There really are men out there like Cage's Roy, as disturbing as that might be. Here Cage gets to be a three dimensional person and not just the human function of a lame action formula.
19 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
More than just a con job
Derek2373 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"I'm not very good at being a dad, alright? I barely get by just being me." -Roy

In a movie full of cons, lies, and misleadings, truer words could never be spoken by a character. In Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage plays Roy: an obsessive compulsive, germaphobic con artist. His life is a mess, not in the traditional sense, but in the sense that he has made himself a prisoner to his own tedious routines and arrangements; living a life of repetition, monotony, and misery. Roy is likable because even though he's a criminal and an eccentric, he's sympathetic because he's lost control of everything, and deep down he desperately longs for happiness.

Happiness becomes attainable when Roy's estranged daughter enters his life. He tries to change things around, for her sake. For the sake that he actually finally has a reason to. Usually in a con movie, the main character should have things together and should be in control, but since Roy clearly isn't (calling him a wreck is just a bit of an understatement), we aren't simply rooting for the cool grifter to successfully pull off a con, we're watching a human being's life change, and improve. Ultimately, the movie is not about a mind-blowing con, but about the main character's redemption.

The ending seems to be quite controversial around here, it's a love it or hate it deal, and I absolutely love it. People who ask, "Why isn't he angry?" must not have been watching the same movie as I was. Just look at the opening scene and then the very last scene, and tell me the movie hasn't gone through an amazing process. It's a wonderful ending because the big reward of the movie was not a cash payoff, but something much much more profound.

I loved Matchstick Men. It's a lovely, quirky movie that is unforgettable. Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Lohman create 3 awesome characters that really come to life and light up the screen. Amazing music by Hans Zimmer as always, with the use of a catchy little tango as the main theme. This was an unpredictable directorial move from Ridley Scott, who is among the great directors working today, and this is my personal favourite of his works, and one of my favourite movies altogether.


My rating: 10/10
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Excellent crime comedy
Travis_Bickle0113 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Another movie with Nicolas Cage playing a weirdo (after "Leaving Las Vegas", "Adaptation",...). Cage is really great in this kind of roles, although I love all his movies. The story is good, as well as Sam Rockwell but it is actually Alison Lohman who's steeling the show. Although she plays a 14 year old girl, she was in fact about ten years older.

Her performance was wonderful and just like Nicolas Cage, I think we all fell for this girl. Such a sweet and curious young, innocent (!?) girl. I think Alison Lohman is an actress who we certainly have to watch in the future.

For me, the last two minutes weren't necessary. I liked the ending as it was in the book, without the happy part. But on the other hand, it didn't bother me either. "Matchstick Men" is certainly a must see for Nicolas Cage-fans, but also for everyone else. Very entertaining and funny although the replay-factor is rather low.

10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
If you didn't get the ending...(spoiler ahead)
grimhector26 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
...then you probably didn't watch it closely enough. I have to disagree with those who criticize the ending. Yes, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the con Roy falls victim to at the end, but you're working with inside info if you think you can get away saying you saw it coming from the first 30 mins of the movie; sorry, don't think so. So, my opinion--I thought it was a nice job on that part. So many movies are entirely predictable; this isn't a shocker of an ending, but it keeps you interested and in the movie.

As for the final ending where we see that Roy is a carpet salesman, well yes, there is an initial feeling of disappointment. Most of you were probably thinking, "Why wouldn't he go back to his trade?" To me it shows how affected he was by the experience. The greatest effect was realizing how he felt; what he had never known before in his life--the realization that having that personal connection with someone had done more for him than anything else he had experienced in his life to that point. So much that it conquered his compulsiveness, allowed him engage in a relationship with a woman he could never have approached before, and to get so much more out of life by investing himself in that endeavor completely. He didn't need a

flamboyant job nor a flamboyant life to accomplish that. What I took from it is a confirmation that life's joys are not a result of material goods, but result instead from becoming more through loving relationships as a husband and a father.
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pros, Cons
tedg25 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Actors love to play actors, and con "artists" qualify, setting us up for the play within the play. In clever layered films of this type, the play within usually has a play within it -- a con within a con within the con that is the movie in the first place.

This version has two features of note. Con movies are the reverse of mystery movies: we expect the storytellers to play tricks on us. We expect to know no more than the guy being conned. That gives Scott extra license to tie the point of view to his main character. He exploits this by giving Cage all sorts of mannerisms: ticks, jumps, triple stutters, ejaculations. Each of these is given to us as well through the camera. Jump cuts, smooth rolls, odd inerts, triple alloys, all to have how we see concur with what we see. Scott does this well and it is clearly his reason for doing the film.

But he also brings an ability to exploit and pervert the genre. In this case he never really lets us know it is a con film until the end: he submerges the confidence activities under Cage's peculiar behavior. He enters "Family Man"/"Paper Moon" territory and plays those chords so effectively we forget where we are, just like Cage.

Thank God for Ridley Scott. He's not the only intelligent director in Hollywood, but he is the only one who practices continuity of scenes one to the other by having the actors project forward. Previously he did this with an expectant tone in the reading, picked up by the first couple beats of the next shot. Here, he reduces it to the smallest unit: beats, not measures.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
14 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Match Lit Men.
FallenEye26 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Throughout the whole movie, I was looking for that long con, it was obviously inevitable; but what Ridley did with a certain character, was just, an artistic con to the viewers.

This film is one of those that really shouldn't be reviewed with the inclusion of spoilers, because going in unaware is the best part.

Ridley, Cage, Rockwell and Lohman, I applaud you all. Very nicely done. Everybody just did what they do excellently.

7.7/10 that conned a rounding off of 8/10. I guess, I'm giving it the 8, it's not taking it, so...
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A fascinating and wonderful performance by Cage.
bobsgrock28 September 2008
Nicolas Cage outshines practically everybody around him in a remarkable performances as Roy, a brilliant con man who has pulled off dozens of jobs which is amazing because he suffers from agoraphobia, germophobia, and multiple other psychological diseases. Sam Rockwell does nice work as Frank, his mysterious protégé, and Alison Lohman is also terrific as the young girl who finds her way into Roy's life when she tells him she is his daughter.

When looking to rent this, I was kind of excited because it looked to me like a Steven Soderbergh-type movie with plenty of twists and turns like the Ocean movies. However, the great British director Ridley Scott oversaw this and it has a great, hip look as well as an ingenious script from Ted and Nicholas Griffin. If you like con movies, stories about people with mental disorders, or you love the work of Nicolas Cage, Matchstick Men works on all those levels.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Different, Entertaining......But Where's The Justice?
ccthemovieman-120 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This was a bit different: a con movie that stays pretty low-key with some humor and a nice father-daughter story and then - wham - the last half hour it turns violent and very serious.

Frankly, I didn't particularly care for the last few minutes. I'm not opposed to forgiveness, it's what we all are supposed to do, but I also am a proponent of justice....which doesn't happen here with Allison Lohman's role as "Angela."

All the characters are very interesting and the story is involving. It hooks you in early on, and keeps your wondering what will happen. There is a nice soundtrack to this film, too, and the camera-work is first-rate. The bad news is that, once again we see a film in which they make good guys out of crooks and the lead good guy "Roy Waller" (Nicholas Cage) smokes the whole movie. When is Hollywood to stop promoting bad things (like smoking)?

Overall, if you are looking for something entertaining and a little bit different, this is recommended.
13 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the year's best.
macrths1 April 2006
The amazing thing about Matchstick Men is that it shouldn't have worked. It tells three stories: primarily the story of a brilliant con artist. It also tells the story of a man driven by germofphobia (fear of dirt), and the story of the relationship between a man and the daughter he never knew he had. The protagonist of all three stories is Roy Waller, played by Nicholas Cage (in an Oscar-worthy performance, I might add). I've always admired Nick Cage, but in this film he outdoes himself. The three stories should contradict according to their nature. The three characters do contradict, but at the same time contain a certain unity. Cage plays all three roles effortlessly and convincingly. In a film where a lot of actors would have gone over the top he finds the right notes. There are scenes where tow and even three of the same characters emerge at one time. He finds the balance where a lot of actors wouldn't have. He is intense, subtle and ruthless all at once.

The script, too, is Occar worthy, so absorbing that even when it goes off track it still manages to keep you interested. Sam Rockwell lends a convincing performance as Roy's partner, Frank, and Allison Lohman is equally entertaining as Angela, the daughter, who winds up wanting to be too much like her dad. The chemistry between these characters is there. They speak in convincing dialogue that shows who they are while propelling the plot forward.They manage to be likable even though by nature we wouldn't feel comfortable leaving a five-dollar bill anywhere around any of them.

On a final note, I would like to comment on the last scene. Without giving anything away, I would just like to mention the many ways that it could have flopped, or given a final plot twist for the viewer. It could have been bitter of hurtful, but Ridly Scott is smart enough to know that, and the scene is done in such a fashion that we understand, without being outrightly told, that this movie ends in the only way it possibly could.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Entertaining, and superbly acted. BUT....
joecoby4527 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Matchstick Men has several things going for it. A great director, good pacing, a fun story line, charismatic characters, and superb acting by all actors involved (especially Cage) . However the movie is marred by the most obvious twist ending of all time.


I knew Cage was being conned from the first second he told his "daughter" that in order to do a con make sure your not being conned. Least subtle foreshadowing of all time. This was about 50 minutes into the film and from then on I knew exactly what was going to end up happening which kind of ruined the rest of the film for me because I knew what where things were going. Shame.

There were plenty of other hints to that already made me think that was happening, Why did we never see the mother? Why did we never see her go inside the house? ect.

It was still worth watching once. But the so obvious a 4 year old could have seen it coming twist does take it down several points.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed