Saturday, September 20, 2003

Matchstick Men (IMDB) (Netflix)
Nicholas Cage is an obsessive-compulsive compendium of mannerisms, phobias and tics (especially the tics), which makes it tough to be a smooth-talking grifter. Somehow he makes it work, though, and has a decent house and a partner (Sam Rockwell), but no life whatsoever. Running out of his medication sparks a chain of plot-propelling events, including meeting the daughter he never knew (Alison Lohman). Written by Ted "Ocean's Eleven" Griffin, and in a departure, directed by Ridley Scott, known more for action pics like Blade Runner and Blackhawk Down.

Con game movies are tricky to write, because if you reveal too little, the audience feels manipulated; reveal too much, the audience gets ahead of the story and loses interest. Having seen too many of these deals, I got ahead of the story about two-thirds in. While that certainly took the edge off the film's big payoff moment, the performances (Cage is perfect for his role, and the kid is impressively precocious) and the directorial skill carry the film home, albeit with less impact than intended.

A sap-free (in one respect at least) father-daughter flick that's ideal for those who get their kicks from figuring out the plot before they're supposed to.