Matchstick Men [2003]

Marking a welcome return to the breezy style of Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men reminds us that the director of Gladiator is equally adept with quirky comedies and offbeat characters. Smoothly adapted from the novel by Eric Garcia and set amidst the sunlit, 1950s-style architecture of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, this gently dramatic comedy centers on Roy (Nicolas Cage), a divorcée whose career as a con artist is complicated by: (1) his ongoing struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder, which manifests itself through various quirks and rituals; (2) a wily partner (Sam Rockwell) whose criminal ambitions are greater than Roy suspects; and (3) the arrival of 14-year-old Angela (Alison Lohman), claiming to be the daughter he's never known. Turns out she's got a knack for dad's profession, and that turns Matchstick Men into a multilayered comedy with unexpected twists and surprising revelations. To say more would spoil the fun; suffice it to say that Hans Zimmer's playful score and a Sinatra-laced soundtrack are perfect complements to Cage's engaging eccentricities. --Jeff Shannon

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