Viewed on 19 SEP 03     Ridley Scott is a director with a huge following.  His fans will be heartened to know that MATCHSTICK MEN is his latest offering to hit the Bangkok cinemas.  However, if you were expecting another high-caliber hit like his Black Hawk Down, get ready for another small-bore G.I. Jane.
MATCHSTICK MEN is the story of two confidence men, mentor Roy Waller (Nicholas Cage), and protege Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell). Waller, however, has serious problems - he is neurotic, he is obsessive-compulsive, he is agoraphobic, as well as being afraid of bright light, and at times exhibits symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome, as well as being a hypochondriac.  But otherwise, he's a perfectly normal criminal.  And since this is yet another Hollywood sponsored "crime pays" film, and since he is a "nice, and basically decent guy", he gets to be the 'GOOD BAD GUY'.  His partner, Frank is not a "nice guy" so it's highly doubtful from the git-go that he'll turn out to be a "GOOD BAD GUY", in fact, he is such a total sleaze, it is highly likely he will turn out to be the BAD BAD GUY.  In fact, Frank is so sleazy, Director Ridley Scott could only have chosen Sam Rockwell for the part, as no other living human being is that sleazy.
Although MATCHSTICK MEN was perfectly cast, its first irredeemable sin is that its plot is entirely dependent on a series of unlikely ruses and events - each more implausible than the one before.  The likelihood of pulling off even one of these ruses is so remote that no sane human would consider using even one in a plotline, let alone all of them.
This reviewer likes a good 'sting' film as much as anyone, and we expect a red-herring or two, but when the Director sees fit to intentionally misrepresent to the audience, he steps over the line.  Scott needs to be told that not only is he breaking the rules of good storytelling, no viewer likes to be blindsided, no viewer likes to be sucker-punched.  Walking out of the theater afterward, I did a mental 'rewind' through the storyline, finding one thing wrong after another.  Ridley Scott is our Matchstick Man here, and he has flim-flammed us, the viewers this time around.
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