A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Nicolas Cage plays Roy, who prefers to be referred to not as a con man but a "con artist," specializing in the "short con," the quick and simple cheat that does not require an elaborate set-up. But his conflicts about his success have left him feeling even more uneasy than he is willing to admit. Various circumstances lead him to a psychiatrist (Bruce Altman). He begins to explore unresolved issues from his past, including his longing for the child he never met. When his wife left him, she was pregnant. The doctor helps Roy find his daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman). When he finds that she has inherited his skills, he is very proud but also a little horrified. He wants something better for her than what he has had. He wants to be better for her than he has been. Maybe the thing to do is one last "long con" and then he and Angela can live happily ever after. But, as Roy tells Angela, the challenge for a con artist is being ready for things that you did not plan.
Is it any good?
Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Blade Runner) has assembled the ingredients in MATCHSTICK MEN like a perfectly iced martini that is stirred, not shaken. The result is dry but refreshing -- and with a kick. Altman is excellent, Lohman and Rockwell are both impeccable, but Cage is mesmerizing. His performance perfectly matches Scott's direction, both exploring the movie's multi-layered themes of conflict, betrayal, counterpoint, inversion, imperatives, and longing. This is a movie about con games at every level; characters con each other and con themselves.
And of course the ultimate con artist here is the movie itself. Some audience members will think there is at least one twist too many, and others will find that the pieces do not hold together as well as they might like. But others will appreciate its superb performances and story-telling, as cool as cocktail music.