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Matchstick Men

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Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Matchstick Men

Its all too easy to remember Nick Cage as an action hero from the nineties; and it’s true that he did get a little typecast (Gone In Sixty Seconds, Con Air, Face Off). But then Adaptation turned up and Cage reminded us all that, actually, he can act. Now here he is again, with another intelligent, well observed performance.

In this comedy drama he plays the part of Roy, an otherwise slick conman troubled by obsessive compulsive disorder. He’s just on the verge of pulling off one of his most lucrative swindles with the aid of his protégé (Rockwell) when his teenage daughter (Lohman) turns up unexpectedly, threatening the whole operation.

Maybe a little predictable in some of its plot contrivances, Matchstick Men is nonetheless packed with pleasant surprises. Go to see a film in which the lead character has obsessive compulsive disorder and you expect him either to be mocked or held up as someone truly special. Here, Roy’s problems are acknowledged and apparent, but do not dominate the film. His disorder is treated with the same importance as his profession as a con man. It’s just a part of his character.

Ok, so Cage is good in this film. But to concentrate solely on his performance would be grossly unfair to Rockwell and Lohman. Alison Lohman in particular manages to combine light and dark, irritability and playfulness, achieving just the right balance in her performance as Roy’s teenage daughter.

Praise is also deserved for Ridley Scott in probably his best film since Blade Runner. Matchstick Men has none of the yawn inducing platitudes that scarred Gladiator and, to a lesser extent, Black Hawk Down. The director’s hand here is unusually soft, gentle enough to allow the characters and the actors to flourish and become the focus of the story, rather than mere mechanisms for the plot.

Matchstick Men may be the title of the film, but the characters exhibit an unusual fullness and depth that, combined with a powerful and flowing plot, place it among the best movies of the year.

Al Ellis

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)
2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)