Matchstick Men

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Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce McGill, Bruce Altman

Director: Ridley Scott

Small time con-artists or ‘matchstick men’ Roy (Nic Cage) and his protege Frank (Sam Rockwell) run various scams promising non-existent profits and prizes to unsuspecting customers. Whilst on the business front he seems a huge success, Roy’s private life is not so great – an obsessive compulsive disorder (yep, the same one documented in AS GOOD AS IT GETS), agoraphobia and a variety of facial and other tics mean the only time he is seemingly ‘norma’ is when he’s putting on a con.

The trouble starts when Roy’s shrink leaves town, driving him to seek help from another therapist, who, instead of simply prescribing him regular pills like the last one, tries to get him to open up. Hence, we get to the root of the problem. No relationship for 14 years after his pregnant ex-wife threw him out, and he doesn’t even know if the kid was his.

He gets the shrink to do some research and discovers that he does have a child, Angela (Lohman), who enters his life to disrupt his routine and cause no end of mischief, starting with the fact that she’s about as tidy as a pig in muck. But secretly he’s delighted to be a father, although his efforts to keep Angela in the dark about the family trade are underwhelmed by her enthusiasm to learn it and her adeptness at it.

My fear about cliched repetition of the obsessive compulsive disorder was mitigated by enough humour to allow it not to grate or poke fun. The editing is rather jerky, presumably to reflect Cage’s character’s state of mind, but this makes it at times not aesthetically easy to watch.

Scott and his actors manage to maintain a fairly non-judgemental examination of morality and relationships and Cage, Rockwell and Lohman all deliver fine performances. Cage is on form as Roy, delivering his obsessive compulsive scenes with humour (his complete aversion to dirt in particular is very amusing) whilst Rockwell delivers a very assured and comfortable performance, and Lohman holds her own in distinguished company.

Cage and Lohman’s scenes as father and daughter are genuinely tender, and whilst it’s a little schmaltzy in some places, there are some nice twists.

5 out of 6 stars