Matchstick Men (2003)

Being a con man, actually looks like a lot of fun.`

When Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage), a professional con man struggling with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, meets the daughter (Alison Lohman) he never knew he had, he inadvertently jeopardizes his tightly organized and artificially controlled life. Sam Rockwell plays Cage’s partner and protégé, with Melora Walters co-starring as Waller’s ex-wife.

So one of my favorite directors Ridley Scott, does this breezy dark comedy, focusing on con men, and their lifestyles something that I had no idea about in the first place.

Compared to many other companion pieces of the last 30 years this is one of the most enchanting. You just love seeing this father and daughter tag-team together. There are many scenes with them that are just totally bittersweet, and actually bring a lot of heart to the film.

The script crosses the crime plot and the emotional plots at the perfect moments. There’s a well made scene where Roy’s daughter begs him to teach her a con. They go to a Laundromat and con a woman into thinking she’s won the lottery. And like a good father Roy forces her to give the money back.

If there is a problem it’s the “Usual Suspects” style ending. I have nothing against playing a trick on the audience but as I put the pieces of the story together I found the final twist to be completely implausible and contrived. I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say that It’s one of those situations that could have never worked if one character picked up the phone and called another character.

Nic Cage gives one of his best performances in years with this film. I love how he just chooses to play these weird and zany characters, and make a great run with it. He masters all the ticks with the OCD character that he’s playing, and actually feels real. The chemistry between him and Lohman actually does feel genuine, and most of the scenes just add to the films appeal.

The conclusion left me a little depressed and disillusioned, but I think that poignant feeling at the end is just what they were shooting for. It can seem a bit corny, but almost works a bit here as a master-piece.

Consensus: Matchstick Men has a heart-warming story about family, great character studies that go to the very edge, and a great performance from Cage, even if the ending is a bit far off.


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