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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Nicolas Cage
Sam Rockwell
Alison Lohman
Bruce Altman.
Directors
Ridley Scott.
Screenwriters
Nicholas Griffin
Ted Griffin.
Running Time
111 minutes

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Matchstick Men
This tale of grifters on the make is a class act on every level.


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Plot
Roy and Frank are a mismatched duo of low-level con men, considering that one is an obsessive-compulsive and the other a louche chancer. But their dysfunctional partnership and Roy's teetering sanity face an even bigger challenge in the shape of Roy's 14 year-old daughter.


Review
After the bullish brunt of making Gladiator, Hannibal and Black Hawk Down in quick succession, you can see why Ridley Scott's curiosity was piqued by this relatively low-wattage study of fragmenting lives, set against a bleached-out Los Angeles only a cab ride from the studio. Just five characters, a wash of small-time criminality and an emphasis on matters of the heart. Broadly speaking, it is a comedy.

The script's loose-limbed dialogue and teasingly back-to-front ethics - Roy, a con man, is dedicated to playing the moral guardian to his zesty daughter - make for ripe, complex set-ups. The plot only flirts with the wacky, elaborate grifts, being more concerned with paying off on its emotional trickery to bring the father-daughter bonding to fragrant life.

Most of this is down to the magical Miss Lohman. Sloughing away the designer jailbait brathood of vacuum-packed stars such as Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes, Lohman inhabits a bright, tomboyish 14 year-old, flip-flopping between hair-trigger tears and the most beguiling movie smile since Natalie Portman in her heyday. Amazing to think Lohman's really 24.

Cage's rattling cage is nothing new, but his vibrant pick 'n' mix of tics and stutters lacks the testy impact of Nicholson's recent compulsions. It's his exhaustive attempts at parenthood that reveal the man. Meanwhile, Rockwell purrs out his slick dialogue, a sub-role to the main drama, but one thick with humour.

Understandably and encouragingly, none of this feels like a Ridley Scott movie. Restrained in style and paced to the slow, midday thrum of a swollen summer, you might as well be strolling the sidewalks of one of Barry Levinson's family talkathons.

Scott's artistry is working in a subtler mode, editing to the jerky, awkward beats of Roy's mania, filling the frame with lurid, troubling POV shots that give the audience the uncomfortable sensation of having developed their own mental shudders. Ironically, it is one of the healthiest choices the director has made in years.


Verdict
Scott tucks away his visual athletics in favour of something leisurely and quietly devastating. It's ultimately far more cunning a script than we can reveal here.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Matchstick Men
Empire Star Rating

RE: Matchstick Men

Very under-rated film IMO. Probably one of my favourite Cage films who is helped along by the awesome Rockwell. ... More

Posted by Castor Troy at 11:22, 09 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Matchstick Men

fantastic, great stuff a quite strange and intresting movie - 4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Zaphod121 at 21:42, 08 March 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Matchstick Men

Great stuff from Ridley Scott with great performances by Rockwell, Lohman and Cage.  Avoid all trailers and watch it with no preconceptions for maximum effect. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 21:10, 08 March 2006 | Report This Post


Matchstick Men

Quite simply one of the msot enjoyable films you could ever watch. Great stuff, with an on form cast and director. One of the great films twists ever and am not exaggerating. **** ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by doncopey1 at 19:03, 08 March 2006 | Report This Post


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