I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Matchstick Men

tn_matchstickmenI don’t know what my problem was, but I didn’t dig on GLADIATOR like everybody else did, and for some reason I was bitter about it and skipped most of the Ridley Scott movies after that. But like the typical SCARFACE-loving American male I couldn’t resist AMERICAN GANGSTER, and that’s when I realized the error of my ways. So predictably my post BAD LIEUTENANT fascination with Nic Cage sent me back to catch up on Mr. Scott’s con men movie.

Cage plays Roy and Sam Rockwell plays Frank, two grifters we first meet in the midst of scamming an old lady by calling up and telling her she won a contest. I must be getting soft in my old age because seeing it open that way made me wonder if this movie was gonna be too unpleasant to watch. We all love a good con job in a movie, but telemarketing scams on the elderly? Usually not as fun. Fortunately it gets more complicated when they show up at her house pretending to be FBI agents after the people who scammed her and take advantage of her hotheaded husband. The more complicated it gets the less moralistic we become as an audience. We would cheer on Ocean’s 11 even if they were stealing from orphans, as long as they had to use a tunnel and dress up in uniforms. Or that’s one theory, anyway.

mp_matchstickmenBut Roy’s fucking up and he’s not happy. He’s got alot of problems and he’s low on the pills that keep them under control. He’s got some serious obsessive compulsive behaviors, including but not limited to extreme cleaning, opening and closing doors a set number of times, involuntary bodily movements and phrases he repeats to himself.

Frank convinces him to see a psychiatrist, and this is what turns it into a movie. The quest to take control of his life leads him back into his past traumas, and ground zero for that is the girl who left him years ago, who, it seems, then gave birth to his daughter Angela (Alison Lohman from DRAG ME TO HELL). Frank meets Angela, next thing you know she’s fighting with her mom and invites herself over to his place, where he tries to figure out how the fuck you’re supposed to do this whole “dad” thing. And also be a con man. It’s about their relationship, but not too sappy.

Not right away, but eventually, he lets her take part in his scams. Reluctantly, and then to teach her a lesson, and then out of desperation. It scares the shit out of him, but makes him proud when he sees how good she is at it.

Lohman’s really good, too. Since I really only know her from DRAG ME TO HELL, where she plays a young professional, it’s funny to see her not that long ago riding around on a skateboard and skipping around the house eating Ben and Jerry’s out of the carton. But she pulls it off.

This is definitely one of Cage’s best performances. He’s doing all these tics – a blink of his left eye, a head jerk, closing doors three times and counting it off, a weird gulping sound, a satisfied mm-hmm to himself – but he doesn’t go over the top with it. It’s like a brewing storm that he’s trying to keep under control. Sometimes he holds it all the way down, on a bad day it explodes out of him. You can tell he studied people with problems like this. I recognized some of them from people I’ve met and seen around.

megaacting-matchstickThis is an ultimate Cage role because it’s a perfect excuse for him to use both ends of the spectrum, from laid back and subtle to full blown knock you on your ass mega-acting worthy of KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. Usually somewhere in between, but he could go off at any moment. There is an absolutely classic bit of Cage humor when he’s flipping out trying to get medication at a pharmacy and another customer sarcastically asks him if he’s ever heard of waiting in line. At his most crazed he asks the guy “Hey have you ever been dragged on the sidewalk and beaten ’til you PISSED! BLOOD!?”

Then, once the pharmacist decides to help him he turns to the pissed-blood guy and says, “And I am sorry, sir,” clearly convinced that saying that makes it all okay.

It’s just great to see someone as talented as Cage getting to use everything. It’s a meticulously detailed performance with his quirks, his dark humor, but also his emotional vulnerability. And then Cage has to portray Roy, this mess of a guy, portraying other characters in order to pull off his scams. So, that’s one of the reasons why this is better than NATIONAL TREASURE.

(I was thinking Lohman and maybe Cage had been nominated for Golden Globes or something for this, but nope. Rockwell was nominated for a Golden Satellite. That’s it. )

I thought the movie had one major weakness, which I will go into in the spoilbox below. But it’s interesting because most con movies live or die on the strength of their con – how clever it is, etc. This is the rare movie where the con aspect somewhat drops the ball but everything else is so great that you don’t care that much. It’s trying to be more a story of the relationship between this fuckup and this young girl than about crime, and it really succeeds. I liked this one.

SPOILBOX  The one thing holding the movie back for me was that, whether through smarts or just luck, I completely saw through the tricks of the plot from the very beginning. I noticed that Frank recommended the psychiatrist, that the psychiatrist made the alleged phone call to the ex-girlfriend, that Angela gave a separate phone number and didn't let him pull up in front of the house, so there was no question what was going on there. The only suspense was the off chance that it was made obvious only so they could actually do something else at the end. It would've been more enjoyable if it surprised me, but the fact that it didn't kill it means this is a strong movie regardless of tricks.  And I have to say, the way it all turns out makes it worth it. I love the epilogue, where you learn that Roy isn't all that bitter about what happened because he just got suckered the way many had been suckered by him. And he decides that the bonding he did with "Angela" still stands even though it turns out she wasn't his daughter. It doesn't get struck from the record, he's still connected to her. I like that kind of shit. Sometimes there's somebody that you had a problem with a long time ago, or you hated them, but if you see them again later you feel more like they're an old friend. Holy shit, haven't seen you in ages. They really captured that good in this movie.
The one thing holding the movie back for me was that, whether through smarts or just luck, I completely saw through the tricks of the plot from the very beginning. I noticed that Frank recommended the psychiatrist, that the psychiatrist made the alleged phone call to the ex-girlfriend, that Angela gave a separate phone number and didn’t let him pull up in front of the house, so there was no question what was going on there. The only suspense was the off chance that it was made obvious only so they could actually do something else at the end. It would’ve been more enjoyable if it surprised me, but the fact that it didn’t kill it means this is a strong movie regardless of tricks. And I have to say, the way it all turns out makes it worth it. I love the epilogue, where you learn that Roy isn’t all that bitter about what happened because he understands the justice of getting suckered the way so many had been suckered by him. And he decides that the bonding he did with “Angela” still stands even though it turns out she wasn’t his daughter. It doesn’t get struck from the record, he’s still connected to her. I like that kind of shit. Sometimes there’s somebody that you had a problem with a long time ago, or you hated them, but if you see them again later you feel more like they’re an old friend. Holy shit, haven’t seen you in ages. They really captured that good in this movie.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 19th, 2010 at 2:12 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

55 Responses to “Matchstick Men”

  1. caruso_stalker217

    February 19th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I haven’t been much of a fan of Scott’s work for the last decade, but MATCHSTICK MEN is excellent.

  2. (Spoilers galore) Great review, Vern. Maybe it’s the context or something, but I completely fell on the con. When I saw this back in the day I had no idea who Lohman was, and to me she was nothing but a great 14 maybe 16 year-old unknown actress. I hadn’t seen enough con movies to be suspicious of the little details and man what a punch in the gut the ending was. It is so enjoyable to see Roy grow up thanks to this girl, than when he confronts his old girlfriend in the end I was begging for the daughter not to be made up. If it wasn’t for that epilogue I’d hate this movie’s guts for being so cruel to a character. Not even Lars Von Trier would pull such a cruel thing on a character. Not a male one at least. Anyway, great to see this movie getting some love. O and Bruce McGill is awesome in this. I smile everytime I see him pop up in movies. (“Wipe that smirk off your face!”)

  3. SPOILERS

    Diego – I watched part of the making-of thing, and the writers said they felt betrayed by the twist in the book and originally wrote it without it, then later put it back in. But that helps to make the relationship real I guess because they originally wrote it as his real daughter.

  4. That’s weird, that’s pretty much the exact same kind of ending American Gangster went for to. Surprised Ridley didn’t have Ripley and the alien reunite years later on earth and joke about all the shit they gave each other.

  5. “We sure had some times, didn’t we? Remember when you threw me out of the airlock? Man, you got me good there.”

    “Well, what did you expect? You busted in on me in my underwear!”

    “Ah, the good old days. God, it’s good to see you, Rip. Nowadays I’m stuck hanging out with this big dreadlocked motherfucker. Not much of a conversationalist, sadly.”

  6. Brendan: Give Scott time; he still has that new ALIEN movie in the works.

  7. Man I can’t stand con movies with the end being where it’s all a big con and the student con artist gets taken for everything he’s got by the mentor con artist, or the other way around if the writers were feeling really bold. The last con movie I watched I actually paused it partway in and looked up the ending to see if it had that shit, and stopped watching when I read that it did. I feel personally insulted, like they want to treat me like I just started watching movies yesterday.

  8. I liked this movie too, it’s cool to see how Ridley Scott can make normal
    living rooms and streets look interesting. I didn’t care that I saw the ending
    coming, but Alison Lohman did NOT look thirteen to me (I checked, she
    would have been twenty-four when the movie came out). That stood out
    like a big sore thumb for me.

  9. I’ve watched a few movies starring Alison Lohman and thankfully this was the first one I saw her in because I never once thought she was anything other than what she was portraying herself to be in this one. She really did look like she was in her teens in the movie and was surprised she was in her twenties after I looked it up afterwards.

    Spoiler part:
    As for the actual con, I do agree with you, Vern. I did see it coming and it was somewhere in the middle of the movie that I realized what was going on. And it’s a testament to how well Nick Cage and Alison Lohman act that you absolutely love the bonding these two have in the movie and wished it to be real and thank goodness for the epilogue. It was kind of bittersweet. I like when a movie ends on a kind of mixed note like that.

    Another con movie where I thought the con was a little obvious as well was Nine Queens. I still liked it despite that. It got remade as Criminal in the US but I haven’t seen that version to compare unfortunately.

  10. This is the first Alison Lohman film I saw (“Drag me to hell” being the second) that had me until the ending. Vern’s regularly featured on “Ain’t it cool news” which is how I got interested in this site in the first place, and Harry Knowles posted a review of this film saying that it had him up until the very last five minutes. Unfortunately I’d have to agree. I hate what a certain character is reduced to (even given the ethical constraints that that character is now bound by, you’d think they’d be able to do more than this in the world the movie takes place in), I hate the manner of the meeting, I hate how it plays out. None of it feels real, none of it feels like what those two characters would do in that situation. If there was a hint that one may be deceiving the other in some way then I think it would feel more “real”, but they play it totally straight. I don’t understand why they do that, it makes it seem phony.

    Still gets a big recommendation from me though, if you’re into this kind of thing (“this kind of thing” being cop movies, suspense thrillers, mystery movies, con-artist movies, psychological study movies, tales of redemption, or just good movies in general.) I loved the majority of this movie, I thought the performances were pretty much uniformly excellent as were the cinematography and soundtrack, which added credibility to an already great script. It’s not a movie that will get you emotionally involved with the characters throughout but there are some nice touches – in keeping with the general theme of the movie, the script is somewhat passionless, but it has a solid emotional centre that focusses on the relationship between Cage and Lohman. I like that it’s not overwritten (until the very end), it keeps the movie from becoming subject to cliche or overdramatics.

  11. Oh for fucks sakes guys, the ending is FINE. Pretty generic, but you know it doesn’t bust my balls or rape my asshole as much as it seems to do most people.

    Funny enough, its that sort fo ending that ADAPTATION pissed on.

    Still a pretty good movie from a (sometimes) pretty good director. Ridley Scott is fucking inconsistent. I mean this past decade alone, we had good/quite decent movies like BODY OF LIES and MATCHSTICK MEN and AMERICAN GANGSTERS, then we also got total dogs like HANNIBAL and A GOOD YEAR.

    Still when he’s good, he’s good.

  12. Maybe the new ALIEN movie/prequel IS the reunion . After all these years of mostly subpar sequels and team-ups with the Predators , Ridley Scott , in his old age , is trying to leave all the Aliens problems behind . “Well , Alien , forget the past , forget all the errors others have done ,forget the pain of AVP, come over here and give me a hug.” Maybe this is really a theme for Scott , something he’s often thinking about.
    I still think that a new Ridley Scott Alien movie is a stupid idea , and , yes , I’m surprised , shocked of my feelings about this , but think about it . The guy was trying to film adaptations of The Forever War and Brave New World , two of the best SF books still NOT translated into cinema ( well if you don’t consider the 2 made for TV Brave New World movies). This new Alien movie seems to be a just-for-the-money project , and I hope I’m completely wrong . I liked Matchstick Men ( you’re right Vern , some good MEGA-Acting in this one ) and American Gangster so maybe there’s hope , but I doubt it.

  13. Vern – BLACK RAIN, I’m surprised you haven’t reviewed that one. Or LEGEND for that matter.

    OK not LEGEND for that matter, ;)

  14. The Predator : Oh yeah , Alien ? YOU’re sick of hanging out with me ? What about me ? What about MY feelings? Look at this room , the room we’ve shared together for the last couple of years in the FOX backlot ! It’s full of slime and eggs ! I hate those fucking eggs ! And everytime there’s an argument , you call your MOM ! You know what ? For MY next movie , I’m hanging out with some nice , firendly looking , clean humans . Like Danny Trejo .

  15. Parker: Would you include THE COLOR OF MONEY in your list of con movies that you don’t like?

    Kermit: Did you read James Cameron’s recent comments about the TERMINATOR franchise? He said that the “pool has been pissed in” too much for him to want to ever go back. I’m inclined to agree with him, and, like you say, I don’t have a lot of hope that Ridley Scott will be able to salvage ALIEN. But hey, I’ve been wrong before.

    RRA: You’re being so hard on LEGEND. It is a perfectly acceptable perfume commercial.

  16. RRA – we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

    There’s a weird trend right now of movies that are great most of the way through, but drop the ball at the very end.

    Some say (I don’t agree, although there’s a little ropey dialogue) that “The Dark Knight” fits this pattern.
    Some say that the last third of “Wall-E” fits this pattern, and I don’t know where the heck that one comes from. I thought it was fantastic throughout.
    I don’t think it applies to “Terminator 3”, and actually the ending was one of the bits I liked the most about that film.

    I DO think that it applies to “Matchstick Men”, “Drag me to Hell”, “Adaptation”, “The Departed”, “Psycho”, “Halloween”, the Kevin McCarthy version of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”, “Suspicion”, and I’m sure I can think of more. All good films that, for me, were tarnished by bad, tacked-on, or simply nonsensical endings.

    Best endings of films that I can think of off-the-cuff would be both “Blair Witch” and “Cloverfield” (actually the hated Blair Witch sequel’s payoff is probably the best thing about it, it really worked for me), John Carpenter’s version of “The Thing” (don’t even bother to seek out the original fifties film, it’s not even close to being worth it), “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man” (of course, these two films have probably the most talked-about endings in cinema history for a good reason), “The Usual Suspects”, “Juggernaut”, “Die Hard”, “Elephant”, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “The Italian Job”, “The Truman Show”, and a lot more.

  17. Paul – WHOA WHOA WHOA Time Out penalty offsides DQ….how was the ending of DRAG ME TO HELL drop the ball?

    I thought it…well you know….delivered what the title promised?

    What ending should it have had, a happy ending? I mean its the poetic ending for that sort of material.

    I’m reminded of the current bitching at SHUTTER ISLAND, a movie where its the journey not the destination that matters. BEsides, I thought the ending worked as it is within the context.

    More than MATCHSTICK MEN for that matter.

  18. IMPLIED ENDING SPOILERS

    I gotta say, I love the ending. It’s the (for me) obviousness of the twist that I have a problem with, but the actual ending that Paul is complaining about is for me part of what makes the movie original. I don’t think it’s tacked on at all, it’s a more honest ending. The normal way to do it would be either 1. he’s still a con man, or it’s implied he has a trick up his sleeve 2. she’s now taken his place as a topnotch con artist 3. they make up and become a great team together or even 4. he’s happy in a regular life but gets his revenge on her or sees that she’s a failure or something. By having them both be small time now but happy, and run into each other at random, and have a sort of tentative respect for each other but just leave it at that… that’ s a way more original and interesting ending.

    (I don’t really want to start a DRAG ME TO HELL discussion but I think that’s an A+ ending and even for the people who saw it coming it would be hard to argue that it’s “tacked on” when it’s the punchline that the entire movie is building up to.)

  19. Been a while since I’ve seen this but I loved it at the time. I can understand some people feeling betrayed by the ending, but by their nature con films are often structured as one big con. But Cage is great in this, as is Lohman. Though I’m still a bit creeped out how Lohman is 30 and still looks 18, that’s some immortal vampire magic right there.

    Talking about recent films with decent con type endings – The Prestige. I fucking love that film, one of the best films of the last decade, so well constructed, built so well around the concept of a ‘magic trick’, plus it has a double twist just in case you figure out one of them, it also litters bits of evidence throughout the film that point you towards one of the twists, so it’s ‘figure-out-able’ before the end of the film, whilst still being subtle.

  20. I’ve discussed the “Drag me to Hell” ending in the “Drag me to Hell” thread. I just think it went down the safe, predictable option when it could have thrown something at us that would really have shaken us. It’s the only time in the whole film that it was safe and predictable, in fact. Don’t get me wrong, I still love both films, I just hate the way they choose to bow out.

    Also with Matchstick Men I’m not referring to the twist, I’m referring to the “two years later” part.

  21. I don’t know if I buy that the sweetheart star of the film being sucked down into hell and her face melting off while her fiancee is screaming and crying counts as a safe ending.

  22. Jareth Cutestory : That’s exactly what I was thinking about . I think I remembered some similar comments from Ridley Scott about the Alien movies , some time ago.Too much piss in the pool . That’s what I think is the problem with a new Scott-directed Alien movie . He was passionate about The Forever War for years , trying to film the damn thing , and now this change of mind . Let’s face it people , for some people , the Alien right now is nothing more than a mascot , a cash cow for FOX , with videogames and comic books , same thing for Terminator , so I can understand Cameron . But I tell you this , the Alien is still one of the most iconic and scary designs in the history of cinema , and I love to see the creature still used in movies , and I liked American Gangster and this one . I don’t have high expectations for the Alien prequel , but I’ve been wrong before too , and I hope I’m completely wrong this time .

  23. I liked the ending, obvious as it was (well apart from the epilogue which was cool).

    After all its essentially a morality tale (as all these comeuppance films are) and Nics redemption was signified by the hook up with the daughter after the big reveal and he didn’t want to beat her till she pissed blood.

    Not sure about the proposed Alien prequel, after all the series started strongly and then fell into an abyss of crap, plus everybody looks back on the first two as real classic movies that a prequel probably couldn’t live up to.

    As for Black Rain and Vern having no review, shame on you Vern a real eighties classic, even taking Michael Douglas’s big hair into account.

  24. Paul – “when it could have thrown something at us that would really have shaken us.”

    Like what? No really like what?

  25. In The Color of Money it wasn’t a big elaborate thing we were supposed to be shocked about. It was just a thing that happened, then went back to being about Paul Newman and his bad ass mustache.

  26. about Scott doing an ALIEN prequel: well, I hope they don’t mean that in the usual sense of trying to explain backstory. I hope it’s just a story about an alien or aliens that takes place earlier and doesn’t connect to Ripley and that’s why they didn’t know about it. (Or it could even be the story of the space jockey but only if they do a great job.)

    But I have some hope for this exactly because of the “pissing in the pool” aspect. I happen to enjoy all the ALIEN movies, so I can’t complain about that. But I think Ridley Scott is the only person who might be able to – and allowed to – make an ALIEN movie that tries to use the tone of ALIEN and not worry about being the next ALIENS.

    Cameron made a perfect sequel, but he took the things he could expand on and went with those, and all the sequels after that followed his lead. Only Scott could really go back to a pre-ALIENS mentality and the sort of things he was obsessed with that aren’t in the sequels as much – the weird sound effects, the dread of space loneliness, the non-military working man in space, the pure alien-ness. I’d even like if he went back to the more upright man-in-suit alien.

    Shit, I wonder if he’ll try to get Giger back?

  27. I will still keep my expectations low , but Vern pointed out maybe the best-case scenario in this prequel thing . The alien-ness . In the first movie , the Alien is really an alien in the sense of the word , is unexplainable , mysterious and completely removed from human reasoning. Is a killer without remorse , but not exactly in the sense of a shark or an animal , you don’t know if it’s self-aware or not , if there’s actual thinking behind his actions. Thanks to years of analysis , we now know that , in a version of the script , the alien was supposed to be self-aware and capable of thinking, kill Ripley , then contact the base mimicking Ripley’s voice . I think I like this scrapped version of the story , maybe more than the actual ending . In Aliens , and all the movies trying to ape it , we loose this frightening aspect of the alien personality. Don’t get me wrong , Aliens is one of my favorite movies , but since that movie the aliens themselves are drones , beautifully designed killing beasts and nothing more . And if there’s a man capable of bringing back some of that alien-ness , is Scott .

  28. MAJOR “THIRD MAN” AND “DRAG ME TO HELL” SPOILERATION HERE, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THESE FILMS AND INTEND TO, WHICH YOU SHOULD, BECAUSE DESPITE MY MINOR CRITICISMS OF THEM, THEY ARE FUCKING AWESOME:

    RRA – the girl sacrificed her cat, why not her boyfriend too? She stays on earth, but at the cost of her eternal soul. The point I was making in the “Drag me to Hell” thread was that this girl had already shown that she would do anything in order to keep herself from being taken. Especially after she’d pretty much refused to give the button to the asshole from work instead. It would’ve been a satisfying kick to the guts. As for the ending being “shocking” – first of all, they’d telegraphed the button-switch twist a mile away. Then look, it’s a Sam Raimi horror film, everybody expects her to die anyway. Wouldn’t it be a great twist if she survives but loses her soul instead?

    Watch “Juggernaut” (which I still want Vern to review btw). Seriously, watch it. THAT’S how to deliver an ending with some impact. Without spoiling too much, a character does something that’s so pointlessly evil and yet so in character that it acts as a final shock to the system and packs a satisfying emotional wallop, without ever sacrificing character or realism to do so. (And if you haven’t seen the ending of “Juggernaut”, you’ve probably seen one of the thirty or so parodies of it in films like “Lethal Weapon 3”, etc.) Or watch “The Thing” where two men sit down in the snow. Or watch “Citizen Kane” and see the last remnant of a man’s childhood dream go up in smoke. Or watch “The Third Man” and see Joseph Cotton watch as the girl of his dreams walks disdainfully past him without a second glance because she can’t bear to talk to him after what he’s done. THOSE are endings, goddamn it!

    END SPOILERAGE. Seriously, there’s a long tradition in Hollywood of great films eschewing the traditional black-or-white endings (either “boy marries girl” or “boy rapes puppy” depending on whether you’re watching rom-com or horror) in favor of something a little more shaded and thought-provoking. I love it when they do this kind of stuff. I don’t mind so much when the film isn’t any good, but damn it, nothing about “Drag me to Hell” came off as conventional or predictable to me, except the last minute or so. It’s the last part of the film you’ll see, isn’t it worth putting a little more imagination into it?

  29. Also I’d love to see an “Alien” film, directed by Ridley Scott, that makes full use of modern technology to bring Giger’s vision to life. I was never a big fan of the “man in the alien suit” thing – it just didn’t look otherworldly enough.

  30. “RRA – the girl sacrificed her cat, why not her boyfriend too?”

    Because you missed the point, the only point, whole goddamn point, the winning lotto ticket point. The whole movie is her trying to avoid that fate by the skin of her fingers, from every possible loophole and trick in the book, even killing her kitty kat. But she still got nailed in the end.

    Again you really wanted that BODY HEAT ending, didn’t you?

  31. RRA – I didn’t miss the point at all. I think it was foreshadowed throughout the film. I think there was no question of where it would end up. The thing is, the film had consistently gone to places I didn’t expect it to go to before. (The cat being a prime example.) I just wish it had this time. I thought the envelope switch thing was really clumsily done and rendered the graveyard thing moot.

    Also I’ve never seen “Body Heat”. Thanks a lot! :(

  32. Paul – Not seen BODY HEAT? No excuse, go watch the goddamn thing. It’s really good. The ending is the best part though, and most importantly you’ll get the reference next time.

  33. I didn’t see the twist coming in this film. I guess it helped that I had no idea who Lohman was, and believed her to be a 16-year old actress.

    Of course the REAL ending is the “epilogue”, which was honest, bittersweet and unpredictable, and tied together the actual story of the film – Which is about Cage becoming a fully functioning human again.

    BTW, I didn’t like the ending of Drag Me To Hell, which just felt cynical for the sake of being cynical to me. I guess that’s fine for a horror film, and endings like that are a tradition in the genre, but emotionally it didn’t feel satisfying for me.

    VERN, if you haven’t watched Scott’s movies in the last decade, you have a lot of catching up to do… I would consider the director’s cut of Kingdom Of Heaven to be a great film (Don’t bother with the theatrical cut), Hannibal and Body Of Lies are good, Black Hawk Down is very well directed although thin storywise, and A Good Year… Well, let’s ignore that one.

  34. Hey Vern: if I remember correctly, your primary objections to GLADIATOR were: 1.) incoherent action, and 2.) lack of any real characters, badass or otherwise. If I remember correctly, you tore into the movie much in the way you would a Michael Bay flick.

    What I wonder is this: have you seen anything in Scott’s post-GLADIATOR work to suggest he’s got a better handle on the action/badass stuff? Did you see signs of encouragement in AMERICAN GANGSTER or KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

    Also, is it inevitable that Russell Crowe will be in the ALIEN reboot/prequel thing?

    The truth is, I was so put off by GLADIATOR that I haven’t bothered with anything other than MATCHSTICK MEN. The power of mega-acting compelled me to see that one.

  35. Tuukka – I agree with you on KINGDOM OF HEAVEN director’s Cut.

  36. Jareth, I recall Black Hawk Down had really well done action sequences, but the characters and story were almost non-existant. To me the film suffered because it was based on recent real events, script seemed to be afraid to create any complexity and shades of grey to the soldiers, as they were all based on real, living humans.

    Kingdom Of Heaven has both very well done battle scenes and moral complexity, although some bad guys are rather cartoony. The biggest problem people seem to have with the film is Orlando Bloom, who obviously isn’t a badass at all, but I thought he was a likable everyman in the film, and gave a good performance. Personally I don’t think he is a flaw in the film at all, but people simply had negative preconceived notions to him thanks to his status as a poster hero for teenage girls, and because traditionally we expect very manly heroes in historical epics.

    I think after Gladiator is the only Scott movie where the action scenes are obviously too shaky, cutty and confusing. I still like the film a lot, though.

  37. Jareth, I recall Black Hawk Down had really well done action sequences, but the characters and story were almost non-existant. To me the film suffered because it was based on recent real events, script seemed to be afraid to create any complexity and shades of grey to the soldiers, as they were all based on real, living humans.

    Kingdom Of Heaven has both very well done battle scenes and moral complexity, although some bad guys are rather cartoony. The biggest problem people seem to have with the film is Orlando Bloom, who obviously isn’t a badass at all, but I thought he was a likable everyman in the film, and gave a good performance. Personally I don’t think he is a flaw in the film at all, but people simply had negative preconceived notions to him thanks to his status as a poster hero for teenage girls, and because traditionally we expect very manly heroes in historical epics.

    I think Gladiator is the only Scott movie where the action scenes are obviously too shaky, cutty and confusing. I still like the film a lot, though.

  38. Thanks for the clarification, Tuukka. One of the few things most aicn talkbackers seem to agree on is that the director’s cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is good stuff. And I don’t have any problem with Orlando Bloom; he’s one dimensional, but so is Keanu Reeves, and if they’re in films like THE MATRIX or PIRATES, movies that don’t require strenuous character work, both guys are fine. And Bloom has an advantage over Keanu: he’s not stuck in permanent surfer voice.

    Is AMERICAN GANGSTER any better than KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

  39. American Gangster is a good movie, although as a Ridley Scott movie I think it’s average. It has a badass factor it, though, and it’s directed in a very classical manner.

    Interesting that you brought up Keanu, as I always tend to compare Orlando to him. The thing is, both are somewhat bland and have limited acting ability, but yet Keanu is generally very well liked, where as Orlando seems to be generally disliked.

    I like both of them despite their limitations. I don’t love them, like I love some actors, but I like them. For me the biggest similarity between the two, and also their greatest strength, is that they have a very relatable, likable guy-next-door quality to them. The moment you see them on screen, you immediately get a sense of a genuinely good-hearted, sincere, honest, somewhat innocent guys. It’s good screen presence, and not really all that common. That presence makes them relatable and likable to me.

  40. I agree. GLADIATOR was overrated and forgettable. At least, I think it was — I’ve forgotten.

    Now I feel like I should make an AIRPLANE joke about not liking gladiator movies, but I’m tired today. Make up your own.

  41. [Ernest] HEY VERN! [/ Ernest]
    whats with the small channel nine logo on the mega acting screen? are you a fellow aussie?

    Oleg lives.

  42. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN has problems — the attitude and philosophy of several characters (notably those played by Thewliss and Irons) often strikes me as too modern, and it takes some liberties with history. And while Bloom is unbearable, he isn’t particularly charismatic, either. I just love the scene where he teaches those silly desert-dwelling folk about irrigation and turns a barren estate into a lush garden overnight. Good thing he came along.

    On the other hand, Irons gets his best role in years and the battles are stupendous — the extended siege sequence tops RETURN OF THE KING, unless you’re one of those types who thinks a battle isn’t a battle without orcs. And the director’s cut is violent as all get-out, very realistically brutal and gory. So that’s a plus, I guess.

    Also, possibly the hottest woman in the world is in it, though her role is far inferior to her work in THE DREAMERS. Interpret that as you will.

  43. EDC – whoops. I had to steal it from a youtube clip to get the precise facial expression that best represented mega-acting. I didn’t realize I got a logo on there. I am not an aussie but I’m very fond of your people because of MAD MAX, CHOPPER, early Russell Mulcahy, and Lauren Jackson of the Seattle Storm. Also THE HOWLING III.

    thanks EDC.

  44. Best con movie ever – Diggstown, starring James Woods, Lou Gossett Jr, Bruce Dern and Oliver Platt. I know that anyone who’s seen it will back me up here.

  45. Just a quick question. Has anyone here ever been dragged to the sidewalk and beaten til they PISSED BLOOD?!!!

  46. Frankbooth, I would believe that a even in the middle-ages a lot of people had fairly “modern” worldviewa. I mean, Jesus had pretty modern views, despite living in a very barbaric age.

    Also, Bloom’s character was an experienced engineer (as it is more explained in the extended version), so it’s not too much of a stretch that he might know a thing or two about irrigation systems, or that some poor villagers/slaves living on the desert might not know much about them.

    A lot of well educated modern day white people go to poor countries to teach ignorant people how to build wells and irrigation systems. I don’t think there is anything racist or prejudiced about that, it just happens that poor people are often also ignorant due to lack of proper education. That’s just the way of the world, and it has always been like that.

    The scene was simply a way of showing what was the lead character’s greatest strength – His education and experience as an engineer. And of course it also foreshadowed his ability to engineer and maneuver war machines, including their strategic use, in the final siege.

    I thought that the garden becoming lush and green was just a nice visual and economical way to show that a longer period of time had passed.

  47. I liked this movie a lot, especially the ending, because it made my uncomfortable creepy sexual attraction to Alison Lohman throughout the first 90 minutes of the movie somewhat understandable. Even though I knew she was in real life an older woman playing a teenage girl in a movie, I don’t want to think of teenage girls that way at all, even if they are being played by older women. So when she walked in dressed like a 20-something year old slut I felt vindicated, because even in the movie she was an older woman playing a teenager. Okay I am getting confused so let’s just forget about it.

    I am a bit hesitant about the new Alien movie because the series has been going downhill for decades, but it might be interesting exploring the original ecology of the beasts. I mean, these things can’t fly spaceships. They have no technology. Obviously they got off their home planet by hitchhiking on some other species’ spaceship. So what was their home planet like? It must have been horrible. Don’t know how you would build a story around that, but Giger could have a field day with it.

  48. You got me wondering if it was just me. So in the name of fairness, I did a little nosing around the internet

    “I was quite unhappy, or most unhappy, when the hero of the movie (the hero has to be a Westerner, you understand) took over his estate, and with typical Western “genius” taught those inferior Arabs how to dig for water, as if they had not been doing that for centuries.”

    http://clippednews.blogspot.com/2005/05/intolerance-kingdom-of-heaven.html

    “Kingdom of Heaven has several passable scenes, especially if you can face another 45 minutes and watch the Director’s Cut. But it is hampered by its desire to show that, apart from a few bad apples, Crusaders and Saracens were all moderate, tolerant and jolly reasonable chaps.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/aug/18/orlandobloom.kingdomofheaven

    “Bloom’s Balian and his allies wander around spouting anachronisms—”I put no stock in religion”; “God will understand. If He doesn’t, then He is not God”—and trying to build a “kingdom of conscience…” ”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2144540

    Like I said, there are things to like –mainly the spectacle. That’s what Mr. Scott is good at. You can enjoy the film for the pretty pictures without defending every last aspect of it.

  49. MikeOutWest

    Have to agree with the Diggstown comment. Especially like the end. Its not a twist because you want it to happen, its just you don’t expect it. (Which is really down to the brilliance of the film)

    James Woods finest hour (Just check his expression when he drives away from the prison), plus it has Bruce Dern acting all crazy. Which as anyone knows is his version of mega acting

  50. I’d like to recommend THE BROTHERS BLOOM to anyone who wants to see a good con men type movie (albeit one that’s a little more of a comedy than most). I think it is one of the best films of the last couple of years.

  51. Frankbooth, I’m sure on internet you can find always someone who agrees with you, regardless of the subject. There are over a billion people interlinked here, so it would be surprising if you couldn’t.

    For that reason it naturally isn’t a good way to try to validate one’s opinions. The value of an opinion is dependent on one’s ability to logically back it up with arguments, it’s not dependent on whether someone else agrees with the opinion, or not.

  52. Thanks for the valuable lesson! I’ll keep that in mind! Multiple smiley faces!!!

  53. Fans of Nic Cage should all watch this:
    http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/2008-12-6-motion-captured/posts/watch-nicolas-cage-discusses-kick-ass-sorcerer-s-apprentice-wicker-man-and-more
    It’s awesome because on the one hand he’s making all these really intelligent, well-thought out points about how his craft has evolved and changed and how he works, but then on the other hand he’s got this bad case of laryngitis that makes him sound like the guy he played in Peggy Sue.

  54. Vern, you should watch LEAVING LAS VEGAS again. I just watched it last night. Cage really is great in it, an expert use of his full spectrum. I’d still give him the Oscar for VAMPIRE’S KISS but it’s not bad tha he won for LLV.

  55. `I like that kind of shit.`

    Me too!

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