RIGHT FROM the jazz inflected score that fills the screen with a kind of unobtrusive mood to the screenplay that unfolds with a sense of possibilities and impending danger, Warner Bros' Matchstick Men, is a film that will keep you glued to the seat. Terrific performance from Nicholas Cage plus the lurking dark sense of humour, add to the enjoyment.
Based on a book by Eric Garcia the movie is about con artists and before you know it has pulled the big con on you too. And if you are bright you will possibly guess the outcome. But figuring it out is half the fun.
At the helm of this great con act is Ridley Scott who has had some dramatic films to his credit like ``Black Dawn Hawk" and ``Gladiator," but here the narration is so intimately woven that it is almost like a piece of chamber music. Close shots of feet moving, expressions, finger tapping ash from cigarettes, leaves on an azure blue swimming pool, are just some of the visuals that give a sense of the cool style Scott is trying to create in his story.
The Matchstick Men in question are veteran con artist Roy (Nicholas) and his eager protégée Frank (Sam Rockwell) - while they are doing very well pulling slick consumer scams on gullible customers, Roy has a compulsive obsessive disorder - his fear of germs, sunlight, dirt on carpets can send him into a tailspin. And Frank suggests he sees a shrink.
And through the course of his sessions with him Roy goes back into his life and we come to know about his failed relationship with a girl Grace who left him for another man when two months pregnant. And he thinks the 14-year-old Angela (Alison Lohman) is his daughter.
Its a matter of time before the girl, in a fit of rage with her mom, moves in with him. Unused to company and the litter and chaos a 14-year old brings in her wake, Roy finds himself warming up to fatherhood.
Soon Angela wants to learn a few tricks of the trade. Reluctant at first he starts tutoring her in the art of conning and before long both are caught in circumstances that spiral beyond control. And it is also the time Roy wants to start living an honest life and be a father Angela can be proud of.
The screenplay by Nicholas and Ted Griffin is more about character transformation than about crime. Its a personal journey Roy makes in his life than about the con jobs he does.
Yes there is major con in the film and you'll have to see it to find that out. And the outcome could change your views about relationships. Looking at Roy you can believe how Nicholas seems the natural choice for the role. You can see the film simply for his performance. Rockwell is very good too well cast as the flashy Frank who we don't really get to know much but then that is the essence of the man who does not care beyond swindling people out of their money. Alison as Angela is very effective too. The combination makes the father-daughter element of the story really tick.
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