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Matchstick Men

Why would Ridley Scott, who usually works in the epic mode of Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, direct an intimate character piece about two L.A. con men? Maybe because the script, by Nicholas and Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven), springs so many juicy comic and dramatic surprises. Nicolas Cage is at the top of his game as Roy, a scam artist with more tics than a picnic blanket. He counts to three before entering a room. His worried partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell), sends him to a shrink (Bruce Altman), who thinks Roy needs to get in touch with Angela (Alison Lohman), 14, the daughter he’s never seen. It’s not as warm and fuzzy as it sounds. There are dangerous curves ahead. Credible? Not really. But Cage and Rockwell play off each other with devilish finesse. And Lohman (White Oleander) is on fire — she’s a comer. No fair spilling secrets. But Scott, as he proved in Thelma and Louise, knows how to build suspense you can also take to heart.

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