Matchstick Men

September, 2003, Drama

Directed by:Ridley Scott

Starring:Nicolas Cage</br> Alison Lohman</br> Sam Rockwell</br>Bruce Altman and Bruce McGill

Director Ridley Scott, (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down) has a string of interesting films to his credit; what drew him to this story of con-men conned, taken from the dark, moody novel of the same name? And why on earth did he decide that this decidedly noir-ish material needed a good dose of saccharine to improve it? Above all, why cast Nicholas Cage--notorious for overdoing his characterizations--and allow him to endlessly repeat the nervous tics and bits of shtick that make his role as a small time felon with agoraphobia so ultimately annoying? The book was a bleak, cynical look at the human condition, worthy of Jim Thompson or Charlie Wilford--but Scott--who uses his camera with typical lush cleverness--surrounds Cage's self-torment with a slick company of actors, (especially Allison Lohman as Cage's long lost daughter, and Bruce Altman as his pipe-smoking shrink) whose work is lost in the lead's irritating mannerisms. (Did Cage gets away with all this because he optioned the book for the screen before it was even published?)

Scott handles the early scams with brisk camera work and just the right tone of cynical good humor, allowing Cage's slovenly partner, (played by Sam Rockman, who demonstrated in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind how to portray a character with the kind of mental imbalance Cage tries for so desperately here) to perfectly balance Cage's fastidious but neurotic criminal minor-mind. But the big pay-off finds Scott's firm directorial hand wide of the mark, and the sentimental denouement, (tacked on to the novel's downbeat ending) finds its logic only in an attempt to goose up the box-office receipts of this ultimately disappointing caper. Only Rockman can be legitimately tagged with the commission of a felony here; he steals every scene he's in.

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