Matchstick Men

Bomb Rating: 

Nicolas Cage has made a career of taking offbeat roles and turning them into bits of performance art. His most notable onscreen performance -- the one critics like myself constantly refer to as the example of the man's willingness to do anything for his art -- occurred in "Vampire's Kiss" when he apparently actually ate a cockroach.

Now, this was either the best press relations move in the history of acting or an episode of true neurosis, because now whenever Cage acts even remotely weird in a role, critics chalk it up to his brilliant peculiarities as an actor. Mr. Cranky, however, sees the writing on the wall. If all a guy can do is act weird in every single role he takes, then the only conclusion one can draw is this: The guy is that screwed up in real life. Remember, this is a fellow who married Lisa Marie Presley for a couple of days on some whim. Does one do that if one is at all normal? I think not. So for me or anyone to write that Cage is a brilliant actor because he's able to do all these weird roles is like congratulating Charles Manson for behaving like a psycho.

In "Matchstick Men," Cage plays Roy Waller, a con man with more tics than the Unabomber on mail day. Add to that a serious anal-compulsive streak and it's a miracle Roy can even get up in the morning. Somehow, he and his partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell), manage to set up some good cons, with an eye for a big score using a rich guy named Chuck Frechette (Bruce McGill).

This all becomes complicated by the fact that Roy's daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman) enters the picture and actually wants to help out on some of the cons. Predictably, Roy and Angela form a lovely bond and the clouds part and we see a potential glimmer of happiness in Roy's universe.

And I must say, as the lights came on in the theater when this damn thing was finally over, I recognized that glimmer of happiness too.

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