Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
  1. The movie so successfully raises the emotional and psychological stakes in the first half that not all audiences may like the film's reversion to con-artist form in the second. The con itself is preposterous and full of holes when we think back after the movie.
  2. 100
    Lohman in particular is effective; I learn to my astonishment that she's 24, but here she plays a 15-year-old with all the tentative love and sudden vulnerability that the role requires, when your dad is a whacko confidence man.
  3. 88
    The dialogue -- especially that between Roy and Frank -- crackles with wit and intelligence (a rarity in films these days).
  4. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    It’s a 21st-century version of "The Sting" for these so far rather unkind and ungentle times.
  5. 75
    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.
  6. This movie is a model of technique, beautifully crafted, often brilliantly acted by Cage and the others, but it's a bit hollow at the center.
  7. A well-made entry in the fashionable caper-movie genre, which has gathered steam lately with "Ocean's Eleven" and others.
  8. The direction is still slick, but Matchstick Men gets most of its thrills from the unknowable in human interaction. This could be the biggest "scam" Scott himself has pulled off.
  9. Overall, Matchstick Men, which is based on the novel by Eric Garcia, is more memorable for Lohman's naturalistic acting and Scott's mannerist direction than it is for its O. Henry surprise.
  10. A clever look at con artists and their games of deception.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Well-acted and intriguing exploration of dishonesty in its varied forms, leavened with a dry comic touch.
  12. 63
    The best moments in Matchstick Men belong to Cage and Lohman, who, in "Paper Moon" fashion, prove that the family that cons together, laughs together.
  13. 50
    Anyone who regularly watches caper flicks will likely quickly figure out what's wrong with this picture, though the twist ending is likely to be a surprise for the less jaded.
  14. A movie about con artists that turns out to be a con job, and guess who's getting played for a sucker?
  15. 50
    Instead of exploding, it implodes.
  16. Reviewed by: Brad Slager
    This is the work of professionals acknowledging a good story and knowing better than to get in the way.
  17. 60
    The soundtrack, which relies heavily on melancholy Sinatra standards like "The Good Life," "This Town" and "Summer Wind," casts perfectly modulated warning shadows over the film's light, bright look.
  18. You can easily lose five minutes making sense of it - and another 10 poking holes in it - but what of it? The preceding 100 minutes pass so pleasurably, the few false moves barely register - maybe the biggest con of all, but consider me happily snowed.
  19. Reviewed by: Paul West
    The picture juggles three story threads. It's an excellent character study, a surprisingly effective father-daughter drama and a caper movie littered with surprises.
  20. Actually, there's one other way to approach Matchstick Men, and that's to forget all about neuroses and con artistry and admire the movie instead for the unsettlingly beautiful directorial study in geographical mood that it is.
  21. 58
    Despite a cast of solid actors and a director with one of the most exquisite visual sensibilities in the business, the film is too often flat when we want it to dazzle us.
  22. 80
    A combination of criminal smoothness and overloaded neuroses, Cage pulls off the lead role better than any actor imaginable.
  23. Let it swindle you; it's part of the fun. In fact, it's all of the fun.
  24. That's where the movie falters: It tries to give Garcia's book a heart and conscience it didn't need and never demanded.
  25. The portraiture is so carefully done that I regret in some ways the tricky plot--which is also carefully done, but seems at times to belong to a different movie.
  26. 60
    Single-dad sitcom is not Sir Ridley's forte but, anachronistically evoking the ring-a-ding-ding ambience of "Auto Focus" and "Catch Me If You Can," his mise-en-scène is as impeccable as Roy's pad.
  27. Both entertaining and empty: an emotional shell game that leaves you feeling cheated even though, on the surface at least, everyone is a winner.
  28. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Scott's finesse can't entirely disguise the mechanical nature of Nicholas and Ted Griffin's script, which has one too many twists for its own good. Fun while it lasts, but it's a bit of a con job itself.
  29. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Odd mixture of ultra-sleek visuals, psychological probing, "Paper Moon"-like father-daughter swindling, self-improvement efforts and abrupt tough-guy stuff keeps the picture percolating, even if it seems too artificial to genuinely convince on an emotional or dramatic level.
  30. 50
    Matchstick Men isn't even remotely intricate; it's not even particularly interesting.
  31. The movie is moderately enjoyable, but it also makes you feel conned: It offers up a disturbing protagonist and then substitutes cuteness for character.
  32. Everything in Matchstick Men moves and looks right, from John Mathieson's cinematography to Tom Foden's production design, so it's puzzling that the film fizzles rather than fizzes.
  33. 30
    Its characters are as flimsy and expendable as the title suggests, while only the most gullible of viewers (i.e., those who've never seen a David Mamet picture) will likely be duped by the painfully et cetera who's-conning-whom antics or the mounds of forced sentimentality under which they're ill-disguised.
  34. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    My real problem with Matchstick Men is that it didn't con me well enough: I saw every trick up its sleeve in the first 20 minutes. If everything had been what it seemed--now, that would have been a stunning twist.
  35. Reviewed by: Renee Graham
    Rockwell is a hoot as Frankie, but during the stretches when he's not on screen, the air goes out of the film.
  36. Cleverly conceived, skillfully made and performed with unflagging verve, it's a change of pace (slower) and scale (smaller) for Mr. Scott, the director of such pounding epics as "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down." Yet this intimate, intricate con about a couple of petty con men selling water filtration systems is also remote and forgettable in the end, a lapidary icicle.
  37. 50
    The good news is that Matchstick Men is saved. Not by the plot, which entails a con so long that you can spot it coming a mile off, but by the presence of Alison Lohman. [22 September 2003, p. 202]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 85 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 38
  2. Negative: 5 out of 38
  1. Jake
    Feb 5, 2007
    Cage is great in this film. He plays the part extremly well. It is a very humorous movie with a great story. Rockwell and Lohman were great for the roles that they played. They gelled very well with Cage. Full Review »
  2. HenryS
    Aug 15, 2009
    This is quite an amazing movie, mainly because Alison Lohman's performance was enough to knock anyone off their seats, I still have a hard time believing she was really 23 then! and the end is indeed original, loved it all. Full Review »
  3. DaraHMude
    Mar 20, 2006
    its a great movie i think. i like the scene where cage and angela hangout together... the ending makes the movie even more unforgettable. i wish it would not end up like that because their relationship was very beautiful. Full Review »