Matchstick Men


Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by:Nicholas Griffin, Ted Griffin
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce McGill, Bruce Altman
Released: October 2, 2003
Grade: A-

Directors who specialise in a certain genre must be very tempted to branch out and tackle material they wouldn’t be expected to.  They need new challenges and want to show the film world how deep their talent is.  Steven Spielberg for example made last year’s comedy Catch Me If You Can fresh off the intricate sci-fi drama Minority Report.

The director of Matchstick Men is Ridley Scott, a talented craftsman who was all but forgotten three years ago.   He made Alien and Blade Runner early in his career and in 1991 earned his first Oscar nomination for Thelma & Louise.  Scott’s next two films, White Squall and G.I. Jane, floundered but like a true Hollywood underdog, he bounced back with Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.  Both films saw him covered once again with acclaim and two more Oscar nominations were in order.

If you look closely at all the abovementioned films, you can see Scott is a man who loves action blockbusters of epic proportions.  Until now, he had never directed a comedy but having seen Matchstick Men, he’s comfortably adjusted his style to pass the test.

It’s a quirky film with a smart screenplay from brothers Ted and Nicholas Griffin.  It’s about two con-men – Roy (Cage) and Frank (Rockwell) who swindle suckers out of their hard earned money.  They’ve been partners for years and Roy has put together quite a nest egg.  Roy’s troubles are not financial – he’s got quite a few phobias that are severely limiting his enjoyment of life.  He’s scared to be outdoors, his house has to be impeccably clean at all times, he’s seeing a shrink, and he’s on medication to help with these psychotic problems.

At a strip club (hilariously known as the Spearmint Rhino), Frank meets the wealthy Chuck Frechette (McGill) who he’s lined up as the next target.  Roy however, has even more dramas in store when he discovers he has a 14-year-old daughter, Angela (Lohman) who comes to stay with him.  She’s a troubled girl, he’s a troubled guy and together they seem to find just what each other needs.  The isn’t much room for relationships though in the life of a con-artist and Roy’s going to have to make some tough decisions…

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a predictable, melodramatic sob story.  The actors deliver precision performances in that you suspect, but are never quite sure, who is pulling all the strings.  You’ll watch with keen interest waiting to see if your hunches are proven true.  The three leading cast members strongly add to their already impressive year.  Cage is following Adaptation, Rockwell is following Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind and Lohman is following White Oleander.  When you’ve two well received movies in the one year, you know you’re on a roll.

Matchstick Men isn’t being promoted with the same force as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down so make sure you don’t overlook it when heading to the cinema.  There ain’t much else on at the moment (in terms of both quantity and quality) so this should temporarily fill the void.