Matchstick Men * * * 1/2

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Director: Ridley Scott.
Screenplay: Nicholas Griffin, Ted Griffin.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill, Beth Grant, Jenny O’Hara, Steve Eastin, Sheila Kelley.

It’s hard to imagine after all his war and gladitorial carnage that the playful tone of this film belongs to director Ridley Scott. It’s a nice and very welcome change of pace for him.

Roy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell) are a mismatched duo of low-level con men, considering that one is an obsessive-compulsive and the other a louche chancer. But their dysfunctional partnership and Roy’s teetering sanity face an even bigger challenge in the shape of his 14 year-old daughter Angela (Alison Lohman).

The con artist’s profession has always looked like a great way to make a living. Well, maybe that’s just the romanticism of Hollywood but nonetheless it still makes a great way for entertainment. Watching the inside plays and set-ups, feeling as if you’re part of it and privvy to hush-hush information is always an audience winner. You can also be sure of a few narrative curve balls here and there, before finally getting the rug pulled out from right under your unsuspecting feet. This is no exception. Ridley Scott wisely plays it very low-key from the get-go, leaving the film to play out in the more than capable hands of his actors and he’s rewarded with three excellent performances. Nicolas Cage is all tic-ridden and full of phobias and nervous energy. Sam Rockwell is his usual wise-ass sidekick, lending (as always) more than able support and Alison Lohman delivers a spot on portrayal of a naive teenager fascinated by her fathers profession. It’s through these performances that we become involved in the story. They’re believable characters and despite their swindling ways, they’re likeable.

Not normally the type of film that Ridley Scott has been turning his hand to of late but it’s still a finely crafted hustle and the performances are top-notch.

Mark Walker

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