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MATCHSTICK MEN

A pill-popping, obsessive-compulsive con man and his crazed protégé plan a can’t-fail heist, but their scheme is jeopardized by the arrival of a tough teen—the daughter the pill-popper never knew he fathered.

CAST: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill, Melora Walters, Steve Eastin

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

"There probably isn't a leading man anywhere right now besides Cage whom studios would entrust with a character like Roy. By now, his goony- bird riffs have become all but patented, and there are times when you fear he'll take one of his infrequent glide paths over the top. But he keeps things in control. Lohman, meanwhile, is as much of a wonder to watch here as she was in last year's ‘White Oleander,’ transmitting the herky-jerky signals from Angela's mercurial temperament with self-possession that's almost eerie to behold. Within the deco-Formica sheen of ‘Matchstick Men,’ this pair succeeds in making us incredulous spectators believe that such odd ducks are as recognizable as our next-door neighbors. --Gene Seymour, Newsday

"As Roy, the chain-smoking, obsessive-compulsive con man with a full range of tics in ‘Matchstick Men,’ Nicolas Cage has what might charitably be called the ultimate Nicolas Cage role. He’s an actor who likes to come apart on-camera, and Roy’s many phobias provide him with an ample arsenal. The problem is, director Ridley Scott has a few tics of his own. We never get the full effect of Cage’s herky-jerk performance because Scott is busy tricking up the action with shock cuts and other distracting bits of business…The movie is moderately enjoyable, but it also makes you feel conned: It offers up a disturbing protagonist and then substitutes cuteness for character." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"… a well-made entry in the fashionable caper-movie genre…Some moviegoers like to second-guess this kind of picture while they watch, trying to stay a step or two ahead of the story and figure out the ending in advance. I prefer to spill my popcorn when surprises spring out along the way. Whatever your own method, you'll find much to enjoy here, and I doubt many people will be able to anticipate all the twists and turns. The cast is also solid, especially Mr. Cage, whose fortunes may be on the rise again. After his awful scenery-chewing in recent films like ‘Windtalkers’ and ‘Gone in 60 Seconds,’ this movie--like ‘Adaptation’ last year-- finds him at his actorly best, playing an offbeat character with sympathy and understatement. It's nice to have him back." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor

"It's shocking how good Nicolas Cage is as an obsessive-compulsive con man in ‘Matchstick Men,’ a well-crafted grifter tale with heart. Cage can get on your nerves sometimes. But here, displaying a full complement of tics, phobias, murmurings and self-calming rituals, his Roy Waller comes across as a sweet, mournful man. The tics serve as distress signals from his restless subconscious…The movie flirts with ‘Paper Moon’ territory, and there are some comedic elements, but Roy's feelings truly run deep." --Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News

"Scott only rarely appears comfortable telling stories where human beings lack high-voltage visual effects or modern war-making machinery with which to interact, and ‘Matchstick Men’ isn’t one of those cases. His direction has all the personal touch of a latex glove…Lohman, a small revelation in last year’s ‘White Oleander,’ continues to impress, as do Sam Rockwell (in the too-small part of Cage’s hipper-than-thou sidekick) and Bruce Altman (as an acerbic psychoanalyst). Cage, however, has rarely been worse, or more unintentionally self-parodic." --Scott Foundas, LA Weekly

"One of the deep pleasures of the movie is the subversive thrill of the kill: watching the con tweak cash from the pockets of his marks, and identifying with his cruel manipulations… The movie will work best for you if you don't fight it and try not to put too much thought into certain anomalies that crop up along the way. Let it swindle you; it's part of the fun. In fact, it's all of the fun." --Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

"It can be quite enjoyable, if also a little exhausting, to watch Mr. Cage act crazy. What fun there is to be had in ‘Matchstick Men’ comes mainly from the mad syncopation of his performance…Mr. Cage is so adept at playing Roy's quick changes that the fundamental illogic of the character is easy to overlook. Ms. Lohman shows the same pitch-perfect balance of guilelessness and coquetry she brought to ‘White Oleander’ last year, and she helps the picture overcome its inherent implausibility…its stop-and-go pacing and everyday scenery recall nothing so much as the misbegotten ‘Gigli.’ It is less laughably awful, partly because of the actors, and partly because Mr. Scott's visual brio papers over what might otherwise be glaring contrivances and plot holes." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"Were it not for the adroit director, Ridley Scott, and his skillful, slap-happy cast, the ‘Matchstick Men’ of the title would be stick figures. Even with flesh on their bones, they and the movie split in half…Cage turns his born-to-be-dapper character into a surprise symphony of neurotic ticks; he even manages to blink both eyes reflexively--a split-second apart. He has the ability to move beneath neurotic symptoms in order to tap into more universal anger and frustration…Lohman, a find from last year's ‘White Oleander,’ is equally good, playing an endearing wheedling adolescent as a slippery Kewpie doll in clogs. And Rockwell brings a ticklish, mistaken panache to his eager up-and-comer, declaring that an urban-cowboy hat operates like a chick magnet…For viewers who detect twists easily, watching becomes a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or rather the other five shoes; this, after all, is an ensemble piece. But more credulous viewers, too, may sense a falseness and desperation behind the movie's trumped-up spontaneity." --Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

"Small-time con men Roy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell) are planning their latest scam. But Roy's an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobe, and when he's not on his meds, look out. He has meltdowns over lint. Keeps his blinds shut tight. Enter Angela ('White Oleander's' extraordinary Alison Lohman), the teenage daughter he didn't know he had. Cage's performance is genius, and as usual, Rockwell rocks." --Diane Baroni, Interview Magazine

"Nicolas Cage is at the top of his game as Roy, a scam artist with more tics than a picnic blanket…Cage and Rockwell play off each other with devilish finesse. And Lohman (‘White Oleander’) is on fire--she's a comer. No fair spilling secrets. But Scott, as he proved in Thelma and Louise, knows how to build suspense you can also take to heart. --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Can there really be an audience for ‘Matchstick Men,’ a film of subtle charm and often subtler humor?…moviegoers who choose to give it a chance will find this comedy more than worthy of their trust…one of the joys of watching this film is that, even a half-hour into it, it's hard to get a handle on it. It keeps you disoriented, but delightfully so. And how often does that happen? Cage is at the top of his game…It's a performance that's easily the equal of his masterful turn in ‘Adaptation’… Lohman is terrific in a role that's far trickier than it initially appears." --Calvin Wilson, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch

"This new con man comedy merely passes the time in a pleasant way then disappears like a carelessly placed wallet…Scott doesn't know how to handle the subtle plot twists that keep us guessing. He drops a few too many clues too early and the ending becomes obvious… Moreover, Scott drops the warm relationship stuff in favor of this big ‘surprise’ and our involvement dwindles before it's over. Lohman -- who was amazingly good in last year's ‘White Oleander’ -- gets big points for pulling off this role, a 14-year-old getting to know her dad again. (She's really 23.) Cage, in turn, throws in enough nervous ticks and twitches and eye flutters to please an army of Academy voter." --Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner

"Imagine ‘Paper Moon’ with a severely agoraphobic Ryan O'Neal and you'll have some idea of Cage's often witty, inventive performance, which is less schmaltzy than [Sean] Penn's Oscar-nominated turn in ‘I Am Sam,’ but no more believable. Lohman, a gifted 24-year-old actress who was so good as Michelle Pfeiffer's teen daughter in ‘White Oleander,’ matches Cage stride for stride, even as the story drifts further and further from reality…Like ‘Adaptation’ (which coincidentally starred Cage as a pair of twin, screenwriting brothers), ‘Matchstick Men’ suddenly turns from a lightweight comedy-drama into something darker and more violent in the third act. As if that weren't jolting enough, there's a phony, feel-happy coda that seems as if it were tacked on in response to disappointing test screenings." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post