There is something attractive about movies that are about “good” guys who do “bad” things. Brad Pitt won us over as a psycho-second personality in “Fight Club,” George Clooney stole our hearts and a lot of money in “Ocean’s Eleven” and the drug-dealing coke-addict portrayed by Johnny Depp in “Blow” made us wonder why he had to go to jail. “Matchstick Men,” a caper conman story with a big heart, definitely belongs in this category.
The film introduces us to the two main characters, the sly conmen, right off the bat. Roy, played by Nicolas Cage (“Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Leaving Las Vegas,”) is a chain-smoking veteran con with a multitude of mental illnesses, such as a serious case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and agoraphobia. Roy’s partner and prot?g?, Frank, is played by Sam Rockwell (“Charlie’s Angels,” “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”).
These small-time crooks usually make their money selling bogus water-filtration systems, while claiming to be antique dealers. Frank complements Roy perfectly in the film, their relationship resembling a twisted “Odd Couple.” Their partnership also teaches us never to rub an OCD patient’s phone on one’s butt.
The plot never ceases to unfold, even right up to the last minute. After Frank sends Roy to Dr. Klein (Bruce Altman) to get some medication, Roy is forced to deal with the pain of a 15-year divorce and the possibility of raising a 14-year-old child he’s never met.
Angela, played by Alison Lohman (“White Oleander,”) decides she wants to meet her father and ends up invading Roy’s perfectly planned life. Incredibly, Roy turns out to be an amazing dad, even though he does mess up every so often.
Angela soon discovers Roy isn’t really an antique dealer and convinces him to teach her a scam. She takes to it like a duck to water – and so begins the father-daughter bonding.
Meanwhile, Roy and Frank are planning their biggest scam yet, one that could mean the end of conning for Roy. When a last minute change of plans occurs, Angela ends up having to help the pair with their heist.
The film skillfully combines action, comedy and drama. Cage has the ability to portray a fatherly love that probably wouldn’t be possible after only knowing his daughter for a month. It brings a tear to your eye. Rockwell is a likeable jerk, pulling most of the laughs. Lohman plays that “too cute” high school girl that you wish you would have been back in the day.
“Matchstick Men,” based on Eric Garcia’s novel, is about deceit, trust and figuring out the difference between the two.
My only suggestion to director Ridley Scott would be more Rockwell with a little less clothing. I’ll let it slide, but only because it was such a great flick.