I’m always a sucker for con men movies, movies about the grift, or general films about robbers who are smart and get money from dumb people. If they’re too stupid to know what to do with the cash, send it over here, Daddy needs it. Sometimes there are new and interesting wrinkles that usually crash and burn, but sometimes work out quite well in the end.
Matchstick Men tells the story of Roy (Nicolas Cage, Adaptation) and Frank (Sam Rockwell, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), two men wh… have been conning people for a few years, Roy being the veteran of the bunch, one who doesn’t like to take many big risks. Roy appears to suffer from various neuroses, and is a bit of an obsessive compulsive, who takes medication to help curb his tics. In the midst of a panic attack caused by a lack of pills, Frank sets Roy up with a psychiatrist who can prescribe the desired pills, but would still like to find out more about Roy’s life. In the midst of the discussions, Roy tells the psychiatrist that he had a daughter with an ex-wife who left him. The psychiatrist decides to make contact with her, and introduces Roy to his daughter Angela (Alison Lohman, Big Fish). Roy meets Angela and she stays with him for a short while, and they eventually develop a bond, so much so that he decides to show her some of the tricks of his trade. She finds herself involved in a job Roy and Frank are pulling to rob almost $100,000 cash from Chuck (Bruce McGill, The Sum of All Fears), leading up to a wild and wacky ending.
A couple things I took away from this film were that it’s not just about a con, but that Roy, who starts off being a virtual hermit because of all of his little eccentricities, comes out more grounded and in touch with the outside world than you’d ever anticipate, and I think the story is more about that then whatever happens at the end. And secondly, Cage’s performance as Roy really is amazing, I think even better than in Adaptation. Rockwell does a great job as Frank, and Lohman is amazing. You’d think she was 14, but actually was 21 during the production. I say this now, because after seeing this disc, if there was one thing drilled into my head, it was Alison Lohman’s actual age. But she is very believable in the role, and the film is outstanding. With more artistic wizardry by director Ridley Scott (Alien), the film is given a stylish, polished look. Despite the poor box office showing for this, it really should be given a second chance by everyone, it’s much better than you’d expect.
Since the con men movie is one of little action, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is OK, and does the job when necessary for any scenes rising over a yell. There was even some occasional LFE activity here, but nothing to get excited about.
Warner shows Matchstick Men off in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen look that is their usual excellent work. It really does look amazing, free of most edge enhancement, and almost every image is full of detail.
Producer Charles de Lauzirika and Director Ridley Scott (the two of which have worked before on the multi-disc release of Black Hawk Down as well as being a part of the Alien Quadrilogy), combine to make an extensive featurette entitled Tricks of the Trade: Making Matchstick Men. While not as long as the feature film on the disc, at 71 minutes, it’s still an excellent and thorough look at the production of the film. You can watch the whole thing in one sitting, or you can look at either the production, pre-production or post-production time spent on the film.
We see Scott in various meetings, casting, costume and other departments, and we see some of the actors come in for costume fittings too. Occasionally, writer/producer Eric Griffin chimes in with thoughts about Scott and the production in general. When you get into the production part of the piece, you see Scott get pissed off (justifiably I might add) during filming, as well as some footage of Rockwell goofing around. There is some footage on Cage as well, but all of the actors are an afterthought in this piece, presumably to emphasize the “making of” aspect of the film. Assuming this was the case, this was a good call by Lauzirika.
The post-production segment is highlighted by a lot of time focusing on Scott’s John Williams, in this case, longtime musical collaborator Hans Zimmer, and some film of various screenings, both private and public. All in all, the featurette was another excellent work by Lauzirika. Scott, Griffin and his brother Nicolas, who co-wrote the film, sit in for a commentary for the feature also. The brothers Griffin are recorded separately from Scott, and don’t contribute much to the track, as Scott spends the time talking about the production, and shares his thoughts on the cast, the film, and various technical aspects of the film.
In listening to a Ridley Scott commentary in the past, I’ve found him to be a pretty engaging speaker, and this was another instance of that. Creating non-existent backstories for characters, he really enjoyed making this type of movie, and wouldn’t mind doing so again. All in all, a recommended commentary track. The trailer completes this disc.
I’m a little disappointed that Warner decided to hang a $27.98 SRP on this thing, considering it is somewhat devoid of extra material. Hopefully despite a lackluster box office take, the movie will find new life on video, as the picture quality is super, and Cage’s performance in particular is outstanding. Recommended to rent before buying.
Special Features List
- Commentary by director/producer Ridley Scott, writer Nicolas Griffin and writer/producer Ted Griffin
- “Tricks of the Trade” a three-part, intimate day-to-day account of the filmmaking process with director Ridley Scott