review for Matchstick Men on AllMovie

Matchstick Men (2003)
by Derek Armstrong review

It's easy to see why a film about a con man with a legitimate personality disorder -- as opposed to the routine kind that springs from a bad childhood -- would be attractive to actors and directors. Most actors are eager to perform the tics associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and for directors, this extra plot wrinkle legitimizes their interest in an otherwise ordinary genre film. Too bad these personal artistic goals aren't quite so satisfying for the audience. In Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage and Ridley Scott reach these accomplishments with total competence -- though it should be noted that Scott's grandiose techniques have come to seem more suited to the epics he makes, rather than small movies like this. It's just that none of it results in a very memorable movie. Scott's fascination with Roy's OCD rituals creates a kind of narrative paralysis in the film, unintentionally mirroring the character's own stunted development. These men's abilities to execute their con -- and how the unexpected arrival of Roy's daughter impacts that -- don't seem to have very urgent stakes. Furthermore, the con doesn't seem particularly ingenious, as Nicholas Griffin's script contains few of the details on technique that can keep a good grifter movie rolling. Alison Lohman does a good job in the Lolita role, seducing marks to trust her through a disarmingly natural comfort with the con game. Sam Rockwell doesn't fare so well in the other key supporting role, as he delivers yet another variation on the terminally hip wise guy with the retro wardrobe, which had brought the actor overnight overexposure by late 2003.