I couldn’t believe Ridley Scott directed a film like this. It feels like one of those sabbatical deals you take when you need a break from whatever horrible job you currently work to buy your kids Gameboys.
Spurious director of such vintage and modern classics as Alien, Gladiator and Bladerunner, Scott this time turns his talents to con artistry and family life.
|"I’m not very good at being a dad! I barely get by being me!"|
Roy (Nicolas Cage) is a con artist. He and his partner Frank (Sam Rockwell) have decided to step up their operation and go for a ‘long con’; this is where the guys pursue their mark for possibly weeks to make the catch. Unfortunately, Roy has just discovered he has a daughter of 14 years who wants to hang out with him more.
The problem is, Roy has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and on top of that is both agoraphobic and germaphobic. When his regular doctor disappears, the pills he was receiving illegally suddenly dry up too and he must get to know a whole new doctor and medication. Something’s gotta give and it looks like it’s going to be Roy.
Touted as a comedy/thriller, I can’t say I found many laughs in this film, but it remains a very entertaining and charming film regardless of the nature of its plot. Nicolas Cage is his usual level of exceptional here ticking and twitching his way through the film in pitiable style while Sam Rockwell plays his long-suffering partner to perfection. Between them there is a good dynamic that helps keep the film rolling along at a good pace until the big con’s payoff at the end. Relative newcomer Alison Lohman surprises here in her portrayal of Roy’s 14-year-old daughter, Angela, in entirely convincing fashion. Made more remarkable, perhaps, by the fact she was 22 years old when shooting commenced! Oh that I look so young when I reach 22… again.
Regardless of the barren laughs in this comedy/thriller, the story is still fairly tight, although perhaps plays out the father daughter storyline just a little too long. However, this storyline relates to the big con when Roy brings Angela in to work it, so it is easily overlooked.
There’s a mildly annoying premise here that was also used in As Good As It Gets in that an illness like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is easily quelled by getting a good woman or a new job or something like that. In reality this isn’t possible and it just cheapens the illness itself to the millions (yes, millions) of sufferers around the world. It’s a genuine affliction and shouldn’t be treated so offhandedly as it is in films of this sort. However, it is treated fairly respectfully in every other regard, making this miracle cure angle the most disappointing part of an otherwise pretty good film.
As far as having Ridley Scott direct, he has done an admirable enough job but don’t expect his usual otherworldy locales or big budget sequences. He does deliver some trademark tension, however, which turns what could easily have played as a throwaway theatre filler into an interesting and well played film.
A perfectly clean picture that is well-saturated colourwise and has no real faults in the transfer. Delivered to us in 2.35:1 with anamorphocity, Matchstick Men looks as good as it did in cinemas. There are some fabulous moments of speeded up camera movements to simulate Roy’s skewed take on the world that works very well and look magnificent. Scott’s ongoing affair with the digital camera has been used brilliantly to capture these moments of deep-set panic in Roy’s world with crystal clear precision. The picture quality is very sharp and crisp, bringing life to the millions of cigarettes smoked throughout the film. Smoke fills nearly the whole movie, regardless of the characters, and has been used to show nervousness and subtly build tension to good effect, but I think I got cancer just from the passive smoking of watching this movie. Yeesh!
Rocking the free world in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, the music of this film comes across beautifully. Hans Zimmer has created a wonderfully jazzy and stylish score that melds with the action to bring us that humourous edge so required by the narrative. Some cool tracks have also been used to enhance the viewing experience with lounge voices like Frank Sinatra’s filling the gaps in score.
Dialogue is all well spoken and clear with no troubles understanding anyone while the sound effects are all well synched and invisible (for want of a better term… ‘inaudible’ doesn’t hold two meanings as ‘invisible’ does). Great sound all round, although the surrounds only get busy with music really. The subwoofer ably deepens the music with that slow-rolling bass so much a part of lounge music and seems to be in work for most of the film.
Matchstick Men is a fine film and one well worth checking out. The extras add serious weight to the film, improving the overall value of the disc immensely. While not among Scott’s better films, this is still an interesting and well played out story with a top-notch performance from Rockwell. However, the film truly belongs to Cage and Lohman, both playing perfectly something they are not; Cage with his disorders and Lohman with her reversal of age.
I enjoyed it and there’s enough by way of twists and turns to keep the crowd happy as the film plays out. Again my only complaint lies in the slight mismanagement of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder against its realities. That aside though, this is a warm film with some great character exploration and a great storyline.