Top positive review
7 of 7 people found this helpful
on 16 July 2004
For Nicolas Cage fans, MATCHSTICK MEN is a treat diluted only by the knowledge that Cage wasn't even nominated for an Oscar-worthy performance.
Cage is Roy, teamed with partner Frank (Sam Rockwell); both are con artists, or "Matchstick Men". As the film opens, we watch as the two cash in on a scam that enables them to plunder the bank account of an elderly couple.
Roy is also an obsessive-compulsive with phobias for dirt and the outdoors. Without his medication, Roy gets twitchy. One day, he accidentally knocks his pill supply down the kitchen sink. Bad timing, since his psychiatrist drug supplier is out of town. On Frank's advice, Roy visits a new shrink, Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman), to whom he admits a previous marriage abandoned some fourteen years previous when his wife was pregnant. Through Klein's intercession, Roy is put in touch with his teenage daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman), who's always been curious about Old Dad. Indeed, against her Mom's wishes, she appears on Roy's doorstep to spend a long weekend. Roy is alternatively smitten with paternal affection and acute anxiety over the dirt Angela tracks onto his carpet. Klein believes the girl's presence is good therapy.
MATCHSTICK MEN is about scammers and cons, so, by the time the credits roll, you shouldn't be too surprised at the general storyline, which is one oft seen before. What elevates the film is the intensity of Cage's extraordinary performance as the mentally tortured lead. We've watched Nicolas do this previously in LEAVING LAS VEGAS and BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. Cage is apparently not one for whom a role is simply a facade easily sluiced away at the end of the day's shoot. Cage always makes me believe the screen character is himself through to the core, something which either makes the actor one of the most talented in the Biz or a schizo seriously in need of professional help.
The other remarkable performance in this film is that of Lohman. Playing the 14-year old Angela, one is apt to forget, or not believe, that the actress is actually in her mid-twenties. She had me fooled.
MATCHSTICK MEN is perhaps one you'll want to see a second time to locate the key sequence where you yourself were fooled. This is first-rate entertainment.