Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for violence and language
Run Time: 2 hours
Director Ridley Scott strays from the testosterone fold (“Black Hawk Down”, “Gladiator”) to focus his sights on a more cerebral animal – the con man.
Roy and Frank (Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell) are pros of the small-time swindle. Working the phones and sliding in and out of character, they systematically dupe trusting blue-hairs out of hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Grifters working a lucrative partnership…would that it were that simple.
The fly in
the ointment is Roy --- an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic with a compulsion
to clean. When the facial tics and fear of the outdoors,
not to mention his eccentric punctiliousness, reach level flash-point,
being what it is these days, the good doctor excavates well beyond
say, Angela’s appearance disrupts
“Matchstick” relies heavily on its Rat-Pack-ish ambience and retro style to propel its disjointed storyline steadily forward. The natural flow is continually interrupted by contrasting narrative arcs. Cage and Rockwell maintain a comfortable, professional camaraderie that is exceptionally watchable. Lohman and Cage’s merger is less pleasurable – fraught with the awkward aura of effort.
This is Cage’s movie, but the charismatic Rockwell steals the show from under his nose. (Just watched “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” for the second time and I’m wowed by this man’s raging talent). Lohman is critically miscast as an unmistakably early 20-something playacting as a 14-year old girl.
Back to that ambience. An aura of smooth-operating illegality pervades every frame, washing away lingering doubts regarding Scott’s ability to traverse genres. Accomplished trick photography and a snappy script lend a welcome edge that serves to crystallize “Matchstick” as a clever, albeit surface-slick, movie experience.