8:00 PM, 28th February, 2004
The basic premise of Matchstick Men isn't new - the experienced con-artist preparing to pull off the last big score (Cage) with the assistance of his protege (Rockwell). That movie is certainly here - a straight scam story in the same tradition as Nine Queens (shown last year) - but director Ridley Scott takes this movie much further than that (and a good thing too, because if you don't see the twist here coming a mile away, then you just haven't seen enough of these movies).
Cage as the obsessive-compulsive, neat-freak conman Roy, cuts a tragic and sympathetic figure increasingly feeling guilty about the people he rips off. The sudden re-emergence of a teenage daughter from an old marriage (Lohman) provides a catalyst for critical self-examination, and eventual redemption. That's the real story behind Matchstick Men - and it works because we do end up caring about Roy (a part, by the way, that it seems like Cage was born to play). The acting by the three leads is spot on, the characters are believable and the direction keeps things moving. Most importantly, I didn't come away feeling that I'd seen this all before - enough originality is brought to the table to keep us interested. It's an entertaining ride with an emotional core.
9:00 PM, 28th February, 2004
Jake Vig (Burns) is a small time con?man about to play it big. Having inadvertently swindled a henchman of crime king, King (Hoffman), Jake feels compelled to make it good. So he confronts the King and they settle terms: Jake will do a job on the King's behalf. He has half a team already; but he needs someone else, and the King is insisting that one of his associates also tags along... Doug Jung's screenplay reminds me very much of David Mamet's 2001 film Heist. And like Mamet's effort, the endless stream of plot turns renders Confidence just one step from being too complicated for its own good. But I love this sort of show; and while convoluted, the ever shifting narrative kept me on the hook. Burns isn't asked to do more than look hunky - which he manages with ease - and the supporting cast, including Rachel Weisz, Paul Giamatti and a scrumptiously hammed up Andy Garcia, flops through its roles without offending. The highlight of the performances is Hoffman's, who, in what strikes me as an unusual piece of casting, conjures nonetheless a splendid characterisation as a capricious underworld figure. The employment of music is excellent; as is the cinematography, which adds a palpable obscurity to the whole experience.