Matchstick Men

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Matchstick Men
Matchstick Men.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRidley Scott
Screenplay by
Based onMatchstick Men
by Eric Garcia
Produced by
CinematographyJohn Mathieson
Edited byDody Dorn
Music byHans Zimmer
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 2, 2003 (2003-09-02) (Venice Film Festival)
  • September 12, 2003 (2003-09-12) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes[2]
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom[1]
Budget$62 million[3]
Box office$65.6 million[4]

Matchstick Men is a 2003 black comedy film[5] directed by Ridley Scott, and based on Eric Garcia's 2002 novel of the same name. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Alison Lohman. The film premiered on September 2, 2003 at the 60th Venice International Film Festival and was released in the United States on September 12, 2003. It received generally positive reviews and grossed $65 million against its $62 million budget.


Roy Waller is a con artist residing in Los Angeles with severe tourette's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Alongside his partner and protégé Frank Mercer, Roy operates a fake lottery, selling overpriced water filtration systems to unsuspecting customers. After Roy experiences a violent panic attack, Frank suggests he see a psychiatrist, Dr. Harris Klein.

Klein provides Roy with medication, and in therapy has Roy recall his past relationship with Heather, his ex-wife who was pregnant during the time of the divorce. At Roy's behest, Klein informs Roy that he called Heather and found out that Roy has a 14-year-old daughter, Angela. Roy and Angela meet, and her youthful energy rejuvenates him. Roy thus agrees to work with Frank on a long-con: their target is Chuck Frechette, an arrogant businessman whom the pair plans to con with the pigeon drop.

One night, Angela unexpectedly arrives at Roy's house, saying that she has had a fight with her mother, and decides to stay for the weekend before returning to school. She explores his belongings and causes him to rethink his life, which he mentions during therapy with Klein. Angela returns home late one night, leading to an argument between the two. During dinner, Roy admits that he is a con artist and reluctantly agrees to teach Angela a con. The two of them go to a local laundromat and con an older woman into believing she has won the lottery, and she shares half of her expected winnings with Angela; however, Roy then forces Angela to return the money.

Roy goes bowling with Angela but is interrupted when Frank reveals that Chuck's flight to the Caymans has been updated to that day instead of Friday as planned. With little time left, Roy reluctantly chooses to let Angela play the part of distracting Chuck midway through the con; however, after the con is finished, Chuck realizes what has happened and chases the two into a parking garage before they escape. Roy then learns that Angela was arrested a year earlier, and asks that she stop calling him.

Without Angela, Roy's myriad phobias resurface, and during another panic attack, he ultimately learns that the medication given to him by Klein is a placebo. Roy proclaims that he needs Angela in his life but that he would have to change his lifestyle, much to Frank's disappointment. Roy and Angela return from dinner one night to find Chuck waiting for them with a gun, alongside a badly beaten Frank. Angela shoots Chuck and Roy sends her off with Frank into hiding until the matter can be sorted out. As Roy prepares to take care of Chuck's body, Chuck suddenly springs to life and knocks Roy unconscious.

Roy awakens in a hospital, where the police inform him that Chuck died from the gunshot and Frank and Angela have disappeared. Klein appears and Roy gives him the password to his large safety deposit box, ordering him to give the money to Angela when she is found. Later, Roy awakens to find that the "police" have disappeared, his "hospital room" is actually a freight container on the roof of a parking garage, "Dr. Klein's" office is vacant, and his very substantial cash savings have been taken. As he begins to realize that Frank pulled a long-con on him, Roy drives over to Heather's (whom he hasn't seen for years) looking for Angela. Roy learns the truth: Heather miscarried their child. There is no "Angela": the young girl he thought was his child was actually Frank's accomplice.

One year later, Roy has become a salesman at a local carpet store, which Angela and her boyfriend one day wander into. Roy confronts Angela, who is much older than he had thought, but ultimately forgives her, realizing that he is much happier as an honest man. Angela reveals that she did not receive her fair share of the cut from Frank, and that it was the only con she ever pulled. Angela says “I’ll see you, Dad” when she and her boyfriend depart. Roy returns home to his new wife Kathy, who is pregnant with his child.



Opening in 2,711 theaters in the United States and Canada, the film's opening weekend gross stood at second place with $13.0 million for a per-theater-average of $4,827; it ultimately lost the number-one position to Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The film eventually grossed $36.9 million domestically, and $65.5 million worldwide.[4]


Matchstick Men has an approval rating of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 187 reviews, with an average rating of 7.07/10. The site's consensus states: "Breezy and well-acted, Matchstick Men focuses more on the characters than on the con".[6] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 61/100 based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7]

Roger Ebert rated the film four stars (out of four), and described it as "so absorbing that whenever it cuts away from the plot, there is another, better plot to cut to." He also recommended the film for several Oscar nominations, most notably Nicolas Cage's performance and the film's screenplay.[8] James Berardinelli awarded the film three-and-a-half stars (out of four), praising the film for its "sly, biting sense of humor" and "emotionally satisfying" elements. He also praised the film's acting, and ultimately noted that the film was "worth every cent" of the ticket price and was "the first winner of the fall movie season."[9]

Some critics were not impressed. Renee Graham of The Boston Globe criticized the film for its sentimentality, writing that "director Ridley Scott goes all gooey in this off-key adaptation of Eric Garcia's cynical novel." Despite praising the performances of Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman, Graham was not fond of Cage, writing that he is more "irritating than interesting" and that the film follows a similar style.[10] Similarly, Lou Lumenick of the New York Post praised the film's acting but noted that the viewer "may end up feeling as suckered as Roy's victims." Lumenick did not enjoy the twist ending, believing that it was a large detractor to the film's value.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Matchstick Men (2003)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Matchstick Men". British Board of Film Classification.
  3. ^ Robbins, Shawn (June 15, 2012). "Number Crunch: A Look At Ridley Scott's Career". BoxOffice. Archived from the original on 2015-01-26. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Matchstick Men (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  5. ^ "Review: 'Matchstick Men' lights up". CNN. 2003-09-11.
  6. ^ "Matchstick Men". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
  7. ^ "Matchstick Men".
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (2013-06-05). ":: :: Reviews :: Matchstick Men (xhtml)". Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  9. ^ "Review: Matchstick Men". Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  10. ^ Morisi, Jacki. "Matchstick Men Movie Review - Matchstick Men Movie Trailer - The Boston Globe". Archived from the original on 2003-09-23. Retrieved 2013-06-10.

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