You won’t feel cheated by Matchstick Men

An OCD con artist and his protégé are on the verge of pulling a very lucrative swindle until the former’s estranged fourteen year old daughter shows up out of nowhere, throwing a spanner in the works.

Meet Roy (Nicholas Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell); a couple of small Tim con artists. Roy is the veteran with the gift of the gab and Frank is his very promising protégé. However successful his little establishment might be, Roy’s private life is something of a mess. He is an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobia with no personal relationships whatsoever, and when his little episodes begin to threaten his criminal activities, Roy is forced to call upon the services of a shrink. Although looking for a quick fix, Roy’s therapy gets him more than he bargained for – a meeting with the fourteen year old daughter he always suspected he had, but had never dared to confirm. Upon meeting Angela (Alison Lohman), Roy is initially unsettled, however eventually, he comes up with his own twist on parenthood. But whilst he develops parental feelings for his daughter, Angela develops a fascination with her new-found father’s questionable career.

Matchstick Men is the 2003 crime comedy from acclaimed director Ridley Scott that I think, whilst by no means his magnum opus, could possibly be classified as a hidden gem. I found it to be very funny in places, and the storyline wasn’t half bad either. What’s more, Nicolas Cage was actually very good as well, which for a film this side of the millennium is a bit of a rarity.

So, rather than keep you in suspense, I’ll kick off with Cage’s performance. It was one of his beautifully over the top outings that actually, for once, fit a character that was outside of the Castor Troy ball park. Some of the things Roy said to his shrink had me just about crying, and when it came to his little outburst in the pharmacy I genuinely didn’t know if I was going to be able to carry on with life. There were times in this film where I truly thought he was brilliant, and I also thought that it was a shame that many of his recent choices in work have been inevitably influenced by the fact that the man fell on hard times. People think he’s an awful actor now and he simply isn’t – he’s just made a few bad moves so he could pay his mortgage.

Playing Roy’s daughter, Angela, was Alison Lohman who, considering she was 22 at the time, played a 14 year old girl pretty convincingly. Her father/daughter chemistry with Cage grew as their relationship in the film blossomed and made for some rather touching moments as the story progressed. Lohman made Angela a fun teenage tearaway and to combine that sort of character with a man who couldn’t step outside his front door without contemplating having a nervous breakdown first was always going to result in some ingenious comic material.

The key to success with comedies is fast-paced, snappy dialogue, and there was certainly plenty of that here. I’ve already said that there were a number of occasions where I found the things that came out of Roy’s mouth hilarious, but this tended to be the case with all the main characters. The very well written lines and the sharp delivery led to some of the best moments of the film, and whilst director Scott if hailed as the King of sci-fi, I think he does a fairly decent job of comedy as well.

Overall, I’d go as far as to say that it might just be worthwhile checking out Matchstick Men. You’ll certainly laugh and the plot is actually rather intricately put together on the quiet. I’ll put it to you this way; it’s not earth shattering, but there’s no reason to think why this one wouldn’t be a winner.

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Kira Comerford

Film and TV lover with hopes to one day make my own projects for everyone to enjoy. Until then, I'm giving my thoughts on what I watch for inspiration.

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