A good con game movie provides unexpected turns that, by the end of the game
the meaning of what you've been seeing calls for reinterpretation. This one
does that, taking you in like any patsy, providing the pleasures that
deception (of the other guy) gives you. It's not quite sleight of hand, but
the distractions in this Ridley Scott directorial trick are all in the
right place for maximum effect.
Two conmen, "not-a-crumb out of place" Roy (Nicolas Cage) and "I love you guy"
Frank (Sam Rockwell), his protege, operate out of an office to filch the
unsuspecting out of their hard earned money by schemes and stratagems that
call for them to assume the roles of super phone salemen in phase one and
fraud agents in phase two. During the slick banter of phase two, Roy goes
ballistic with twitches and jumps, making it convincing that his
obsessive-compulsive disorder, and his dependency on illicitly obtained
medication, are serious matters. Partner Frank is there to manage the shock
of the seizure to the unsuspecting and to tend him when he's in its grasp.
Roy's the type to shake off offers of help, however, and after a testy
session with shrink Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman) in order to legally obtain his
medicine, he's back to his controlled abnormality. But, not until his never
seen 14-year old daughter Angela (Alison Lohman) shows up in his bachelor
life, he's not ready to go for Frank's idea about a big score. Her needs
change his priorities and self-protective policies, however, and he gets into
Franks' plot to take a less than scrupulous car dealer for a lot of cash.
As though he spent a few weeks in an institution for the anal retentive as
research, Cage takes on the ticks and phobias of the affliction with
enough harrowing detail and consistency as to provide a quick course in the
behavioral syndrome -- one that could require you to open or close a door
three times in order to do it once, counting as you go. How he manages to
build his con artistry and the process of an errant single guy learning to
becoming a father to a teenager on top of tic-ridden symptoms is a sight to
behold and an inseparable part of the drama.
For her part, the choice of Alison Lohman as that teenager growing attached
to a father she never before knew, couldn't be more a more exquisitely one.
Can this 24-year old actress that grows into your heart just as it does
Frank's pull off a believable 14 year-old? You'll find out why the question
itself is so superbly appropriate when you see the pic. In the meanwhile,
trust me, she'll captivate you and make you understand why super-grifter dad
wants to ensure her future by putting her name on his currency-filled deposit
box at the bank.
Rockwell ups the ante of his comedy-edged charm with as much slicknesss as
his moments demand. He loads the venture with a dimension that, if he
weren't in such fine company, might've stolen more than the swag.
When you're in director Ridley Scott's hands, (as you were in "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk
Down") you can expect a choice cast and taste for material that crowds every
possibility and nuance into the story he weaves.
"Matchstick Men" left us leaving the theatre checking our wallets and ready
for a little homestyle sloppiness. It never seemed so desirable to be a
~~ Jules Brenner