Matchstick Men (2003) (mini-review++)

(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 8

directing 8

effects 7

editing 7

writing 8


3.5 out of 5 🐙


When I first saw this movie back in 2003, I was on a first date. The lovely lady insisted on paying and I am nothing if not progressive. Also, I was broke back then, but she didn’t know that. The date, like the film, was mostly great. The evening’s end, like the film’s end, was mostly not.

Matchstick Men is the story of Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage), a con “artist”, with obsessive-compulsive disorder (see Jack Nicholson’s Oscar winning portrayal of a similarly affected character in As Good As It Gets). Roy’s OCD has reached a level that is interfering with his work and his partner, played by the frenetic Sam Rockwell force him to go to a shrink. We learn that Roy has been married and may even be a father. At Roy’s behest, the shrink calls Roy’s ex and while she does not want to see or speak to Roy, Roy’s 14-year-old daughter, played by the impossibly baby-faced 24-year-old Alison Lohman, is game. Roy’s life, like most absentee fathers who hear that proverbial knock on the door, is never the same.

Nicolas Cage returns to what he does best: neurotic. Like Adaptation and Moonstruck, Cage delivers when the character is struggling. His academy award for Leaving Las Vegas was a prime example of Cage mastering the miserable. Cage plays Roy’s OCD ticks for laughs and handles the pure joy of a “new father” with skill. Lohman is a revelation as his daughter. Her enthusiasm and expressions would melt even Bobby Drake’s icy heart. And Rockwell, as always, delivers his unique and always excellent take on weirdos.

Nicholas Griffin’s first feature film screenplay is smart and tight, with no awkward lines or clunky dialogue. The story does drag a bit in the second act, but never for too long. Ridley Scott handles the actors and the plot well enough to keep us entertained and provides us with a jaw dropping ending.

However, the epilogue to this film was shit. Unfortunately, the denouement leaves the audience angry. Or at least it left this audience member angry. And my date, too, for what it’s worth. It’s just another example of Hollywood underestimating the movie going populace.

Matchstick Men may not light a fire in your heart, but it will keep you warm for a couple hours. 







(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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