ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
a diabolically clever winner
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison
Directed by: Ridley Scott
By Anthony Turow
title Matchstick Men refers to con artists ã those skilled
in the art of bilking an unsuspecting mark out of their money
on the strength of sheer confidence. A con artist would assert
they don't take somebody's money, but rather have it given to
them. Rest assured, any viewer should gladly hand over their
money for this film and they most certainly won't feel as though
they've been duped.
Matchstick Men is a film that works on three
levels. Primarily, it focuses on Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage),
an agoraphobic, obsessive compulsive con artist and his protþgþ
Frank (Sam Rockwell). Secondly, it's a film about the relationship
between Roy and his 14 year-old daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman),
whom he just found out he had. And finally, it centers around
a scam Roy and Frank are in the process of pulling off.
Every aspect of this movie impresses. What
will probably draw the most attention are the wonderful performances.
Cage is astonishing. His performance is a true actor's showcase
and he nails it ã he's every bit as good here as he was
in Leaving Las Vegas, his Oscar-winning role. In spite of all
his ticks and loopy behaviour, Cage's Roy feels authentic. His
quirks and odd mannerisms don't feel forced or showy, but genuine
because we get to understand the impetus for his large number
Lohman is also superb in a rather complex
performance that combines the characteristics of a na´ve
youth with a master manipulator. She holds her own with Cage
in every scene they share, proving her strong performance in
last year's White Oleander was no fluke.
Rockwell is also quite good in the role that's
the most understated among the leads. It would be easy to overlook
him, in light of the more flamboyant roles of his co-stars,
but that would be unfair. He hits the mark by portraying Frank
as an average, everyday con man who fails to see the art in
his profession, preferring a more pragmatic point-of-view. As
he says to Roy: "You've got enough money to retire off
this, but me? I've still got to worry about car payments."
The direction of the movie is also exceptional.
Ridley Scott takes a break from directing testosterone fests
such as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down to direct a film that
is as cool and understated as those films were loud and overblown.
Herb Alpert and Frank Sinatra music dominates the soundtrack,
dictating its breezy pace and complementing its inventive editing.
Scott's trademark slickness is still present, but it never interferes
with the human elements of the story.
Finally, praise must be heaped on Nicholas
and Ted Griffin for their fine adaptation of Eric Garcia's book.
The screenplay is the lynchpin of any great movie and this one
is funny, literate and diabolically clever.
The only problem some may have with the film is an ending that
may seem overly contrived. However, after much deliberation
I've thought it over and simply can't discredit the film as
a whole because of it. Gee, I hope I haven't been conned.