Matchstick Men is a large helping of USA’s Monk. However, instead of using his nervous tics to solve crimes, Roy (Nicholas Cage) is committing them.
The film boasts stellar performances and good direction, but a sporadic script keeps it from being anything better than average.
From the start the viewer is pulled into Roy’s world and explores every aspect of his unusual condition, something not even the Golden Globe-winning series Monk could pull off.
But the long running time and unfocused second half nearly destroy everything that sets this movie apart from other flicks.
The film introduces Roy and Frank (Sam Rockwell) as two small time criminals working the phones and making house calls in order to sell high priced water filtration systems.
Then Roy’s neurotic tics are made apparent, some severe enough to nearly cost him a sale. Soon it is clear that there is a war being waged inside of him between his mind and body.
Concerned by his partner’s behavior, Frank sends Roy off to a shrink. Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman) quickly finds the reason for his psychosomatic episodes: a troubled marriage and possibly a child that he has never met.
After a rather rapid search, the psychiatrist finds Roy’s daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman), who wants to meet the father that abandoned her before she was even born.
This scene comes off as being unrealistic. What daughter, who’s never known her own father, would turn around and welcome him with a warm embrace?
Soon enough Angela becomes involved in Roy and Frank’s latest con job.
Cage and Rockwell work amazingly well together and Lohman is fantastic as Cage’s con-in-training daughter.
Matchstick beautifully captures the personalities of each character and draws the audience into their lives during the film’s first hour.
Unfortunately, the latter hour of the movie drags on without any further character development or insights.
Matchstick successfully raises the psychological stakes in the first hour but unwisely turns into a run-of-the-mill con film in the second half.
Director Ridley Scott and writers Nicholas and Ted Griffin put the focus squarely on the characters themselves rather than the crimes they commit. This helps create a film that is at the very least captivating, but is still a tough sell for the average audience.
Working on his first theatrical release since Black Hawk Down, Scott proves this time around that a good movie doesn’t require special effects, stunts or an abundance of explosions.
The writers create scenes with clever dialogue and juicy character bits that leave most in the theater wishing they would’ve dug just a bit deeper.
Ultimately the movie ditches thought-provoking for tongue-in-cheek.
The filmmaking takes a turn for the worst as Scott tries to show Roy’s distorted perception through eccentric lenses and rough jump cuts that unintentionally distract the viewers rather than engage them.
Weird camera angles and some bad judgment calls force Matchstick to settle for being a slightly above average drama that fumbles from what was a beautiful start.