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Matchstick Men

Staring: Nicholas Cage, Alison Lohman and Sam Rockwell.

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Written By: Ted Griffin

This was truly a fine movie. The acting was superb. The plot was great (even if I did figure it out way too early - and yes I am bragging and yes I did document it by wrecking the plot for the person next to me). Griffin also wrote Ocean’s 11 and, teamed up with Scott (who has done such great movies as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down), these guys have done just a bang up job.

Of course, I have seen reviews where this film was compared to The Sting and I would not go quite that far.

Nicholas Cage (as always) gave a super performance as the con "artist" protagonist in this movie while Alison Lohman (who I could not remember seeing before despite her appearances in some big movies like The Thirteenth Floor) was fan-fucking-tastic playing a 15 year-old (she is, in reality, more like 24). Sam Rockwell was not as amazing as his co-stars and I really felt that his part could have been played by just about anyone (although I am glad it wasn’t played by anyone who is super famous). I thought that Bruce Altman did a great job as the psychiatrist (although he always seems like a television actor to me) and I really don’t like Bruce McGill so it is difficult for me to say how he did (he was fine I guess, thankfully for me the part was small).

The problem with reviewing this movie is that I can not really tell you much about it (other than it was good and you should see it) without ruining the plot. I can tell you that it is a little slower than it might have been but that the slowness works for it because it isn’t actually a movie about the con, it is a movie about the characters.

Despite the fact that it is the con that drives the movie, it is really a joyfully done piece that centres on the troubled life of Nicholas Cage’s character rather than on the twists and turns of the con artists game. There are some truly fantastic scenes (particularly between Cage and Lohman) which alternately touch your heart and make you laugh.

This is not necessarily a movie for people who like their con artist movies to be big and bad and bursting with momentum. On the other hand, by concentrating on the people rather than the game, this movie does what movies like The Italian Job failed to do. Unlike most movies in the genre, Scott does not seem to have lost sight of the fact that character and plot can fight against each other and spoil a movie for the viewer. For example, suppose that The Fast and the Furious had truly tried to be about the characters or suppose that The English Patient had tried to be about the war and special effects. With movies like The Italian Job I always get the feeling that the director (F. Gary Gray in that case) got lost between the two and failed to have the movie work on either level. In Matchstick Men, Scott manages to hold onto both by giving one (character) the room it needs and allowing the other (the action) to follow along. There is no attempt to bedazzle us with chase scenes and special effects. This movie is a Drama with a plot that keeps it more interesting than most Drama’s (in my mind at least).

In fact, the more I think about this movie, the more I like it. Kudos to all involved (including the set painter fellow that is the one who is hurt most by piracy). I think that everyone should see this movie.

That being said, there is really no reason to see it on the big screen. There are no explosions or racing scenes that require a lot of size or noise level. Obviously, any movie would be most enjoyable in the theatre but this movie doesn’t actually need all that equipment to be good. I am awful glad that I saw it in the theatre rather than waiting for the video release as it provided me with an excellent night at the movies. On the other hand, if you want to see something "bigger" at the theatre and can’t decide between it and Matchstick Men, Matchstick Men will play almost as well on your television as it does on the big screen.

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