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Matchstick Men

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I’ve been trying to write a review of this movie since Friday, and I’m still not sure I’m gonna get it right. I don’t want to say too much, it would be terrible to give anything away, but this was a very plot driven movie.

Nicolas Cage plays a con man (“con artist“, in his words), or a matchstick man. As befits a movie aiming for Oscars, he’s got a bit of a mental handicap. He’s extremely neurotic, full of tics, and has at least a touch of OCD. This is, of course, amusing, in a Rain Man kind of way, and it also presents built in tension and an obvious quest for our protagonist.

He runs out of his pills early in the movie, and his protege, played by Sam Rockwell, send him to a shrink that gets him talking about his ex-wife and possible child. Cage convinces the shrink to call the wife, and is excited and scared to learn that he has a fourteen year-old daughter who wants to meet him. This he does, and she essentially moves in. She quickly figures out that her father is not an antiques broker, and soon he’s teaching her some short cons, and then he’s using her for a long con.

Now I gotta go to invisible ink for the spoilers. Highlight the following paragraph to read:

The ending of this movie was devastating and caught me by totally off guard. For a second I thought the cops in the hospital probably weren’t cops, but I just thought the mark was going to a lot of trouble to get his money back. When I realized it wasn’t really a hospital, I nearly wigged out. Oh my gawd, he’s not a shrink. Oh, Jebus, the mark wasn’t really a mark. HOLY SHIT!! That’s not his daughter!

I didn’t want it to be true, and I was really, really surprised when the movie actually had a sweet ending after all that pathos. This was a great plot twist, worthy of classic caper films such as The Sting, House of Games, and The Spanish Prisoner.

I wanted to love this movie. The performances are great, especially Alison Lohman as Angela. But the plot is really, really slow, and there’s too much dwelling on Cage’s tics for my taste. If you stay patient, though, and let the movie come to you, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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