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You won't feel conned out of the ticket price for this film; you may even go see it again!




Matchstick Men
The Masked Reviewer

The con is on.  Nicholas Cage (The Rock, Face/Off, Raising Arizona, and several Vegas-themed films), Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest, Charlie's Angels, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) , and Alison Lohman (...uh....she's probably been in something) star together in this film directed by Ridley Scott.  You remember him, he directed several films (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down, Hannibal, and a little film called Gladiator). 

Did you know that Sam Rockwell had an early role as the lead thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  Talk about a stellar career. 

Anyway, Matchstick Men is a movie about con-men.  That's always an interesting topic.  Many good films have been made about con-men, such as The Sting, and many others which won't be listed here.  Con-men sometimes preferred to be called "con-artists".  For those of you who don't know, "con-man" doesn't refer to con as in ex-con, but rather it is an abbreviation of "confidence man".  They gain your confidence, and than WHAMMO, they steal your gold brick. 

You may notice that the Masked Reviewer isn't saying much about the movie.  That's because a movie about con-games is very easy to spoil.  A common theme in such movies is that the audience doesn't really know everything that's going on, as if they're being hustled too.  And Matchstick Men is a fun movie, that's best left completely unspoiled. 

The Masked Reviewer can say that it's a good film.  It's entertaining, it's intriguing, and it's fun.  There's not a lot of heavy drama, though it does have its dramatic moments.  The comic moments are great, but it's not a comedy.  Sam Rockwell and Nicholas Cage have great moments between them.  In fact, all of the actors have good interactions that are funny yet believable. 

Nicholas Cage gets to do what he does best...a man on the edge, ready to pop.  He gets a lot of roles that burst with intensity, and he carries this one very well.  He's a different kind of crazy than he was in his last brilliant performance in Adaptation.  He's compelling to watch throughout the film. 

Sam Rockwell gives an excellent performance as well.  Though his role is a fairly limited supporting role, he optimizes his screen time.  He creates a vivid character almost instantly, and in the world of smarmy con-men, both Rockwell and Cage give likeable performances. 

You won't feel conned out of the ticket price for this film; you may even go see it again!  Much like The Sting, there's a lot to be seen in this movie, and while some people (especially fans of this sort of movie) may be able to soak it up in one viewing, some people will want to see if they can catch little details they missed the first time around.  Truth be told, this movie is not as intricately layered as The Sting or even Mamet's Heist (which Rockwell also starred in).  But it's very accessible and easy to follow, which many of these kinds of movies are hard to do.

Also featured in the film is Bruce McGill, who's been in everything from Timecop to My Cousin Vinny to Legally Blonde 2 to several episodes of "MacGyver" (as rapscallion troublemaker Jack Dalton).  Of course, to many of us, he will always be Daniel "D-Day" Day from Animal House.  As well he should be.

Alison Lohman is charismatic and convincing in her part, too.  That's about all the Masked Reviewer has to say about her.  She's good, but the Masked Reviewer just doesn't know much about her prior work.  She didn't star as a villain against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She wasn't a fraternity biker.  She didn't direct a bunch of cool sci-fi movies.  She doesn't get to play over-the-top nutjobs with serious medical problems.  Maybe next time.

The film has a nice pacing and is well-directed by Scott.  The cinematography isn't anything special, unlike Alien, Blade Runner, or Gladiator, though there are a couple of interesting shots snuck in.  Toward the end, the film does tend to drag.  The anti-climax is a bit anti-climactic, but it doesn't get too long or too sappy, and the story it tells does have the Big Three: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The music is great and wacky, featuring Sinatra, Herb Albert, and mood-setting original music.

If you love Nicholas Cage, you won't be disappointed in his performance.  If you're a fan of Sam Rockwell, you'll be fan of his work in Matchstick Men.  If you're a huge Ridley Scott film, he delivers what you've come to expect from him.  There are no surprises -- everyone turns out work that you know they're capable of.  So, if you hate Ridley Scott, Nicholas Cage, and Sam Rockwell, you're probably not going to love the film, but most people will be very happy with everyone's work in this one. 

If you love movies about con-men, such as Ocean's Eleven, Heist, or The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), you'll find Matchstick Men to be engaging right up until (almost) the end.  It's kind of like The Sting meets Paper Moon.  But not quite. 


Expectation from the Title: When a beam of evil alien energy zaps a small town tobacconist's shop, an ordinary pack of matches is transformed into a world-dominating army of ultimate evil.  This summer...use a lighter, or don't light up.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Nicholas Cage looks dapper, even while acting like a crazy man.

The Pros: Solid acting, solid story, solid direction.  It doesn't achieve greatness, but it's an entertaining and interesting film.

The Cons: Nicholas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman...Ha!  Get it?  They're the "cons".  It's a movie about con-artists.  The Masked Reviewer has waited a long time for that joke, and now it's gone.  Huh.  Seemed like it'd have been better.  Oh well.  The film slows down a bit at the end, the film will be a bit predictable to those familiar with the genre, but even so, it remains fun. 


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