Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Movie Review(Matchstick Men)...

Matchstick Men

Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage) is an obsessive-compulsive con artist who has hit a career low. Along with his apprentice Frank (Sam Rockwell) he has resorted to conning lonely old women and housewives through a telesales competition scam. Bored of small time schemes, Frank persuades Roy to help him hit the jackpot, with a more lucrative job involving a rich businessman named Chuck Frechette (Bruce McGill). Exchanging U.S. Dollars for higher value British notes, the idea is relatively simple but profitable enough for Roy to declare it his final job.

With show-stopping performances in last years ‘Adaptation’, and now Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage seems to be back on the right track. After dabbling with unlikely action hero roles (The Rock, Con Air), the Oscar winner has thankfully returned to the kind of challenging acting roles that earned him recognition and respect in the first place. Sam Rockwell is going to be a huge star. He has been around for years with small roles in ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Galaxy Quest’ to his credit, but finally landed a breakthrough leading role in the excellent ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’, the directorial debut of George Clooney. Pairing Cage and Rockwell was a stroke of casting genius as the two play off one another like comic veterans.

Alison Lohman plays Angela, Roy’s estranged daughter, whom he meets for the first time, just as his incessant twitching and agoraphobic tendencies are beginning to overwhelm him. The illegal supply of medication he is taking is suddenly cut off when his doctor leaves town and Roy becomes a chain-smoking tic machine, barely able to leave home or string a sentence together. The relationship between father and daughter develops naturally amid the progression of Roy and Frank's plans for the big job. Roy and Angela start off uncomfortably as he has no idea of where to begin relating to a child. Inevitably, Angela learns the truth about her father's profession and not surprisingly wants to learn some tricks of her own. This sets the stage for the development of the father-daughter relationship, a display of skill, and a precursor for the con games that follow.

Director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator) clearly relishes the opportunity to work with such a tight screenplay by Nicholas Griffin, on a smaller, more personal scale than his usual fare. Matchstick Men is one of this years best. Highly recommended viewing.

4.5 out of 5