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MATCHSTICK MEN (2003) - PG13
Roy and Frank are small-time con-artists about to take on a big-time job that involves the participation of grift veteran Roy's newfound fourteen year-old daughter Angela. With Roy being an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic it is imperative that he continue taking his 'pills' so as to keep his anxiety attacks under control, particularly with his reckless new daughter strewing evidence of her presence all over Roy's life. As Roy and Angela develop a long-lost bond, he introduces her to the art of con, setting himself up for the biggest con yet.
The cast includes: Nicholas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell, Bruce Altman, Jenny O'Hara, Bruce McGill, Beth Grant, Sheila Kelley, and Steve Eastin.
Directed by: Ridley Scott.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Crime, Thriller.
Rated: PG13 for violence, some sexual content and language, and thematic elements.
“Matchstick Men” is a poignantly brilliant film that combines the best of artistic cinematography, a solid cast, and a witty script to develop a touchingly comedic take on what would normally be an action-packed movie about getting conned and doing the conning. Instead, Ridley Scott brings us a story within a story turns the ordinary into extraordinary.
Cinematographically the film combines a slew of artistic shots much like those in “The Matrix”, a sudden freeze frame that pans rapidly in a 360 degrees (or so) motion. There are also quite a few nice tricks that involve Technicolor shots, close-ups, and shots that speed up the playback, etc. which all work to develop layers of the character Roy; a con artist loaded with ticks and anxiety which stem from a severe case of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) that seems the likely development after his pregnant wife left him for another man.
The plot is also quite remarkable. On the surface level there exists the typical story of the con man getting conned. What makes Matchstick Men different is that there is a whole sub-plot that interweaves itself into the main story, which is far more personal and intimate. The film begins by disclosing the true dirty deeds of protagonist Roy and his con-artist partner Frank who spend their business hours duping poor suckers into buying over-priced gizmos in exchange for the ‘prize of the lifetime’. After the fool’s been swindled, Roy and Frank make a guest appearance to the house in the guise of “Fraud Agents” and deliver the bad news that they have officially been conned and there is nothing they can do about it. But Roy and Frank’s business can’t hold up unless Roy remembers to take his “pills” every day, which, after he spills them down the drain in one of his OCD fits, presents the two with a very sticky situation.
Enter the subplot:
As Roy sinks further into his bout of anxiety-ridden depression his protégé Frank decides to set him up with a shrink that can prescribe him medicine; since Roy’s original shrink has hit the high road and is nowhere to be found. After a few visits with Dr. Klein Roy discovers he has a daughter, Angela, who was the alleged bun in the oven at the time his wife left him. After Dr. Klein arranges a place for Roy and his daughter to reunite, Matchstick Men switches directions as the film focuses on Roy developing a relationship with his fourteen year old daughter Angela, who is of course getting in the way of his ‘antique business’.
With a witty set of twists and turns, and an equally sharp script the film grabs at the audience and keeps them watching from start to finish. Maybe it’s the dialogue, maybe it’s the fact that the film has an independent feel, or the way the Nicholas Cage absolutely nails his role with a precision that its hard to believe he isn’t a tick-ridden OCD in real life, but Matchstick Men is as wholesome as it is devilishly entertaining. With an ending that echoes the predicted surprise of M. Night Shamylan, Ridley Scott delivers with a flair that puts Matchstick Men on the maps. So what happens? You’re just going to have to see for yourself.
Roy Waller, played by Nicolas Cage, is the obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic pill-popping con man turned dad.
Frank Mercer, played by Sam Rockwell, is the wily protégé sidekick of Roy Waller.
Angela, played by Alison Lohman, is the 14-year old tempestuously adorable girl with a knack for the art of con.
Dr. Klein, played by Bruce Altman, is the slightly unconventional psychiatrist who ‘aids’ Waller in overcoming his personal and professional anxieties.
Kathy, played by Sheila Kelley, is the intriguingly shy cashier at Waller’s local grocery store.