Movie Review
Matchstick Men
Matchstick Men poster
By Greg Ward     Published September 14, 2003
US Release: September 12, 2003

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Nicolas Cage , Sam Rockwell , Alison Lohman , Bruce McGill

Running Time: 116 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $36,873,000
It is very rare that a film this outstanding comes along
Many times a film will be almost perfect until a bad ending, an obnoxious love story, or a bad plot twist get in the way and eliminate what the film was really supposed to be about in the first place.

It is my greatest pleasure to say that "Matchstick Men" is not one of those movies. In fact, it is very rare that a film this outstanding comes along ? a movie that possesses not only terrific performances, but a sharp script with extremely witty dialogue, a rock-solid plot twist that I didn?t see coming, and great character development (just to name a few).
It tells the story of Roy (Nicolas Cage), a brilliant con man who is very neurotic, constantly checking things so that they are just so. He and his partner Frank (Sam Rockwell) are amidst pulling off a very big scheme when Angela (Alison Lohman), the daughter Roy never knew he had, comes into his life, thanks to his psychiatrist, Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman).

Roy has lived alone for so long thanks to a marriage that ended badly. He doesn?t have the experience, let alone a stable mind to deal with a daughter, especially when he is dealing with a huge con that will rake in a large sum of money. As he begins to spend more time with Angela, he begins to really enjoy her presence, even showing her a few tricks along the way.

A film like this could have been really cheesy, with the ending becoming too sentimental. Ridley Scott, a director wise beyond his years, knows better than this; he isn?t going to do this to his audience. He executes an ending that is not only satisfying, but also somewhat unexpected, allowing the audience to drop their jaw in shock at the plot twist.

The writing by Nicholas and Ted Griffin is brilliant, very sharp, and extremely witty. Every word uttered by each character is immensely clever, allowing the audience to become more aware of the nature of the character and what really makes them tick.

Better yet, the characters are smart ? they are very well developed and know exactly what they are doing. I especially enjoyed the scene when Roy and Frank are on the phone trying to sell the water filtration system for a lot more than it is actually worth. During this scene, I was howling with laughter because of how funny the dialogue was (I smell an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay).

The performances are all terrific, with Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, and Bruce Altman all adding a little bit of extra emotion to their characters that makes them more believable and easier to relate with. It is Nicolas Cage, however, that truly shines here. He doesn?t play Roy: he becomes Roy. Every time he twitches or has little spasms, or opens and closes his door three times, we feel sorry for him because of how neurotic he really is, even though it is kind of funny at times.

There is one scene where Roy goes to the pharmacy to obtain more of the pills that Dr. Klein gave him. Extremely desperate, he cuts ahead of the line. He ends up frantically arguing with the pharmacist in a scene that is truly emotional; we feel so bad for Roy at this point because he has really gone off the deep end.

In all honesty, I almost wanted to cry because of how much I felt for Roy. Due to scenes like these, I actually forgot that I was watching Nicolas Cage playing a character. Instead, it?s as if he was Roy portraying himself in the movie. I believe Mr. Cage has an excellent chance of obtaining his second Oscar come March.

I also felt that I could relate to Roy. Although I am not "that" extreme, I must say that I have a number of obsessive-compulsive tendencies that I wouldn?t mind getting rid of. For example, I lock a door and then pull at it to make sure that it?s locked, even if I know it is. I also place something in a drawer or bag and then constantly check to make sure that it?s there, even if I know it is. I find it wonderful to find a film that portrays this disorder so truthfully and emotionally.

The relationship that develops between Angela and Roy is quite touching. Here you have an obsessive-compulsive man who has never raised a kid before and has mostly kept to himself since the bitter end of his marriage. On the other hand, you have a spunky, outrageous 14-year-old who is very energetic and gets what she wants simply because she can.

The more Angela and Roy are on screen together, the more truthful and believable the relationship becomes. It?s as if there is a real connection between them due to the strong performances by Cage and Lohman, therefore making it the strongest father-daughter relationship I?ve ever seen on film.

It isn?t very often that a film so honest and powerful comes along. Not since "American Beauty" has a film spoken to me like this with such a powerful message attached. Going into it, I wasn?t expecting a whole lot, only to end up being pleasantly surprised. I might be going out on a limb here, but this is one of the best movies I have ever seen.
Greg's Grade: A+
Greg's Overall Grading: 25 graded movies
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'Matchstick Men' Articles
  • Stephen's review B+
    September 14, 2003    Very stylish and suave, with superb performances -- Stephen Lucas
  • Lee's review B
    September 14, 2003    Absorbed me immensely for most of the duration with its cool and jazzy tone and intriguing characters -- Lee Tistaert