The Art of the Con
Jeff Reichert on Matchstick Men
Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men truly features one of the greatest movie twists since Keyser Soze shuffled off into the distance at the end of The Usual Suspects. As usual, however, Scott's humanism and focus on character over genre mechanics and empty spectacle provides a poignant, unforgettable dimension to his shocking turnaround. Matchstick Men, then, is more than just a movie about a couple of con artists, it's a movie about one man, on fire from a life's worth of bad choices, hoping to quench the flame by dousing himself in the cool waters of paternalism. Ever-gamine Alison Lohman, in a performance to rival her daring work in Atom Egoyan's masterpiece Where the Truth Lies, is the perfectly winning object of Nicolas Cage's affections, until [SPOILER ALERT] we learn that she is not all that she seems. The way Cage plays the final scenes, in which the haunting revelations are revealed to him is, I have to tell you, heartbreaking. If you thought he wasn't quite emotional enough in career benchmark Drive Angry, this is the next film you should put at the top of your Netflix or Hulu queue!
Heraclitus famously said something like, "you can never step in the same river twice." The same applies, for the genre hopping, unpredictable career for Ridley Scott. He may never make another film like Matchstick Men, but knowing it's out there, shimmering like a jewel, or, better, a bright star in a dazzling constellation only furthers our appreciation for this invaluable artist.