''Matchstick Men' fails to deliver as advertised

Matchstick Men' -- PG-13

"Matchstick Men" isn't gonna be easy to review. I saw the movie and I have some thoughts on it, but I'm not sure if they're really objective.

Of course, it's a review; reviews are always based on opinion, but I do like to think I have something worth reading for people who don't always feel exactly the same way I do (not everyone can be perfect in every way, after all.) That's why I'm not sure what to tell you about the latest Ridley Scott film.

Summarizing the plot is always a good way too start.

"Matchstick Men" tells the story of Roy (Nicolas Cage), con artist extraordinaire. On a daily basis he poses as radio-show hosts, police officers and bank tellers to swindle people out of their money.


While he's a smooth operator on the job, at home he's a mess. He hasn't been in a relationship since his wife left him 15 years ago and, in the meantime, has descended deep into obsessive compulsive disorder.

At the beginning of the movie, Roy alternates between one world of lucrative cons and another world of obsessive cleanliness and paranoia. Both worlds are rocked, though, when a daughter he never knew he had comes to visit.

The strength of "Matchstick Men" is clearly its characters.

Cage turns in a good performance both as a neurotic con man and a loving father. However, while Roy was a rich and well-designed character, I have to give kudos to his daughter Angela (Alison Lohman.) She was fantastic as a funny, outspoken character who wants to learn everything there is to know about being a con artist.

It was a delight to watch them play off each other, with Angela trashing Roy's carefully cleaned apartment and Roy teaching her the ways of the con artist.

Where the movie goes wrong is in its advertising campaign.

I know, I know, that isn't "Matchstick Men's" fault.

All of the actors gave superb performances, the screenwriters created an intriguing story and Scott did a fine job filming it, even if the lighting choices were a bit unusual.


However, whoever was in charge of advertising screwed up big time. Commercials for "Matchstick Men" were being shown far in advance of its release and, from watching them, I thought I was going to see a comedy. Yes, I realized it would have a father/daughter story and wouldn't be a total laugh riot, but what I saw wasn't even a dramedy.

A problem with some recent films is that if a drama includes any humorous bits, it's pegged as a comedy. If you've ever seen "About Schmidt," you know what I'm talking about.

"Matchstick Men" is really a straight-forward drama that, like real life, includes some bits of laughter. While it occasionally inspired a few chuckles, the characters and the story are what it's really about.

But, as I said, I was expecting a comedy; I was going in prepared to laugh. What I got was a drama, which just wasn't what I was looking for. So, while "Matchstick Men" might be a good movie, I was left feeling hollow at the end because of those darn advertisers.

Hey, that wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! Whew! Talk about a load off of my shoulders.

OK, so, a summary? Don't expect to get a lot of laughs out of "Matchstick Men." However, it's got some entertaining characters and a bizarre (if a little confusing) plot twist. Go in expecting a drama and perhaps the movie will succeed for you where it failed for me.

Sean Flanders is a senior at Mayo High School. To respond to reviews in Sound &; Vision, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903-6118 or send e-mail to

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