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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Swimming with the Sharks

Matchstick Men on IMDb

Plot Overview

dish washingold men playing chessphone talkRoy Waller (Nicolas Cage) is a cleanliness freak immediately getting on any spills in his pristine apartment and occasion­ally cleaning it from top to bottom to relieve stress. He's a seasoned con artist running repetitive scams with his protégé Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell) who talks him into doing a long con with him before retiring. He stashes his operating money in a huge piggy bank and his life savings in a big safety deposit box. He's acquired a new shrink: pipe-smoking, chess- playing, laid back Dr. Harris Klein (Bruce Altman) who insists on having a session with him (Roy: “I just want you to give me some pills”) before prescribing more meds (“and let me get on with my life.”) He meets his fourteen-year-old daughter Angela Fenton (Alison Lohman) for the first time who inveigles her way into (He: “You're ready for this?”) helping her daddy (She: “I was born ready”) at work. After getting to know her, he contacts a lawyer to see about joint custody.


In Greek plays when the plot got too complex, they resolved it with a device called deus ex machina (lit. a god from a machine.) A god would be lowered by ropes, who would then set things straight. The long con in this movie got so bewildering that it would take some­thing on the order of divine inter­vention to work it out, but Roy's religion is a thing of the past, noticeable only by his troubled conscience and an aversion to irreverent uses of God's name. Here we run into some­thing along the lines of a Duane Swierczynski plot:

Much as Jack fancied himself agnostic—he'd spent too many years forced into the pews of Catholic churches—he could not help but notice the grand design every once in a while. He believed that there was a higher power at work, and if you knew how to look for the signs, there was a way out of every situation. He called it his Batman Theory of Religion. The caped crusader was forever telling Robin, “Every trap offers its own solution.” If life was a trap, then it offered solutions, too. Even when the trap appeared to be closing fast, the light fading, the jaws tightening. (151).

There is a set of sentiments played out in films from time to time—Holly­wood recycles the same themes—most elegantly expressed in a well known poem—actu­ally a psalm—a variation of it played out in this movie. Let's start with the poem:

Psalm 127 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

This pictures a man who is a carpenter by day and moonlights as a night watch­man. He's got his priorities all wrong; or at least they aren't godly. Rather than be a work­a­holic, he should spend time with his wife at home, make some babies, and they'll grow up to leave a mark in the world. And the man will himself gain self-confi­dence. At least that's God's design.

clean sweepgroceriesfamily dinnerRoy has two jobs and no family to support. He's a driven house cleaner and a practiced con man. Alone he's on the verge of becoming a basket case. His therapist suggests he try honest work. When he visits his ex-wife Heather (Melora Walters,) she comes to the door with a dust rag in her hand. Connected to a wife he'd have some­one to do the cleaning. We also see the little woman in the kitchen cooking up a more elaborate meal than bachelor Roy ever makes. And if he makes babies with her, he'll have some­one to pass his heritage on to.

Production Values

” (2003) was directed by Ridley Scott. The screenplay was written by brothers Nicholas Griffin & Ted Griffin based on Eric Garcia's book, Matchstick Men. It stars Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman and Sam Rockwell. Cage and Lohman had magnificent chemistry together giving great performances. Rockwell was good, too, as were Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill and Sheila Kelley. Lohman playing a teenager was dressed retro to present a more whole­some package than would her sophisticated California counterparts.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for thematic elements, violence, some sexual content and language. Mindful editing keeps it moving right along with a < 2 hour runtime. The background music was pretty mellow.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This was a very enjoyable film exceeding my minimal expectations. I wish they'd make more of them this good. Not a classic but well done.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Three anda half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Swierczynski, Duane. The Blonde. Copyright © 2006 by Duane Swierczynski. New York: St. Martin's Minotaur, 2006. Print.