Matchstick Men (2003): The Subtle Art of the Long Con [Joey’s Review]
The long con is old hat here on #CageClub. We’ve seen it done in DEADFALL, but now we’re going to see it done well!
Like ADAPTATION., I’d seen MATCHSTICK MEN twice before this viewing. Unlike Adaptation., however, Matchstick Men isn’t a movie I’ve loved unconditionally. I think that’s understandable for films that have a major plot twist. (I’ve already kind of alluded to it, and I’m about to go into it in more detail, so get out now if you want to avoid spoilers!) When you learn a film’s plot twist, re-watching it can either lead to a deeper appreciation of the film, or make the re-watch somewhat meaningless.
When I saw Matchstick Men for the first time, I loved it. Re-watching it, I was less than impressed. Within the scope of #CageClub, I’ve seen the error in my ways and think of it as the underrated (though perhaps slightly predictable?) thriller it is.
Plus, it has Sam Rockwell, so what’s not to love? He’s THE BEST.
Here’s where spoilers come in.
It’s interesting to watch this movie knowing that the whole thing is a long con of Sam Rockwell robbing Cage of his savings from other con jobs they’ve performed. It’s unlike watching THE SIXTH SENSE knowing Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. This film doesn’t really have clues to pick up on to guide you to the ending. Instead, you’re able to see Sam Rockwell’s master plan unfold from the very beginning. This makes his absolute commitment to conning Cage impressive, but also makes other events a little less believable when you know they’re part of a con. TL;DR There are positives and negatives.
That’s not to say the ending comes out of nowhere, though; it makes sense within the narrative of the movie. Sam Rockwell mentions a long con early in the film, and Cage tells him that if he sees a big mark, he should always take the shot. Aside from those lines, though, the film’s twist ending comes as a gut punch, especially considering we’ve spent the whole film rooting for Cage and hoping he’s able to connect with his daughter. (Who turns out to be not even be his daughter!)
That gut punch of an ending almost didn’t make it into the final cut. Matchstick Men is adapted from a novel, and the ending in the film is what the ending is in the novel. (Or so I’ve read online.) The screenwriter left that twist out of the first few drafts of the screenplay, but director Ridley Scott wanted to make sure it stayed in the movie. As a compromise, they added a “happy Hollywood ending” where Cage gets the girl he’s been seeking and his life is happy and content. Everyone wins! Kind of.
I really don’t know what the original ending of the screenplay could have been. I can’t think of an ending that I’d like more than this one, though, so I’m very happy with the one we got! Matchstick Men is a good movie with great performances from Cage, Rockwell, and Alison Lohman (acting 8-9 years younger than she actually was!). Check this one out!
How can I watch it? You’ll need to pay a couple bucks for this one, but it’s a fun movie and one of the better #CageClub movies of the past 15 years. I say check it out!
What’s up next? It’s time for Disney Cage in NATIONAL TREASURE!