‘Matchstick Men’ perplexing, but holds attention | SummitDaily.com

‘Matchstick Men’ perplexing, but holds attention

I’m still a bit perplexed. I walked out of the theater after seeing “Matchstick Men” and didn’t quite know what to think. I didn’t know if I liked it or was annoyed.

There tends to be little gray area between the two emotions, and somehow the film dropped me smack into the middle of it.

Most films that leave you in such limbo evoke reflective thought and an urge to further understand what it was that you just experienced.

“Matchstick Men” didn’t do that.

It’s the story of an excessively neurotic and aging conman named Roy (Nicolas Cage), who retreads his past and tries to connect with a child he may have had (but has never known) with his ex-wife. It relies heavily on Cage’s engaging lead performance, which is far better than most of his recent turns in big-budget, action flicks, but isn’t quite Oscar-caliber.

The movie tries to set you up for turns and twists that, quite frankly, were relatively predictable. They kept me paying attention, but I wasn’t truly surprised at any point.

What did surprise me, however, was the delicate balance of emotion the film tried to maintain in portraying Roy’s relationship with his long-lost daughter.

It succeeded to a degree. I felt myself feeling empathetic without feeling manipulated. Yet when I stepped back for a moment, I realized that I didn’t really care all that much about the relationship or the characters or even really what was going on.

“Matchstick Men” is slickly made and keeps your eyes entertained. It seemed as if it wanted to go deeper and provoke more but realized its limitations and stopped just short. I have to admire that aspect of self-awareness on the part of the writers and director Ridley Scott, of “Gladiator” fame.

However, I left without even feeling very entertained. I didn’t feel as if I’d wasted my time completely, but I didn’t feel as if I’d earned much for it either.

I left slightly confused and not a little apathetic.

“Matchstick Men” fell into that category of a film that isn’t meant to simply amuse you but isn’t good enough to pique real thoughts.

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or aleonard@summitdaily.com.

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