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Matchstick Men (Blu-ray Review)

Matchstick-MenI want to thank The Martian for likely being part of the reason we are finally getting Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men on Blu-ray.  A timely big name director’s newest movie probably got Warner Bros to dig a little in their catalog for something from him that wasn’t out yet.  The film original came out in 2003, the film that followed Scott’s 2001 two’fer of Hannibal and Black Hawk Down.  He’d actually done three films in two years because Gladiator released the previous year (Nabbing Ridley Scott his Best Director Nomination).  While I’m not sure whether the film was a financial failure or not, it didn’t really set the box office on fire domestically or globally upon its release.  While being a terrific film and garnering mostly great reviews, the film was completely forgotten come awards time.  It found its following mostly through home video and seemingly has been one of the films of the 00’s to achieve cult status.  Matchstick Men is a film I was pretty high on back in 2003 and still am today, and I was surprised it wasn’t on the format yet.  Had I realized that, it would have easily made one of my earliest wishlists long ago.

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Film 

Roy and Frank are a couple of professional small-time con artists. Roy is an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic with no personal relationships to call his own, Roy is barely hanging on to his wits,  While Roy is looking for a quick fix, his therapy begets more than he bargained for: the revelation that he has a teenage daughter–a child whose existence he suspected but never dared confirm. At first, Angela’s appearance disrupts her neurotic father’s carefully ordered routine. Roy begins to enjoy a relationship he never dreamed of having with his daughter. Angela however, begins developing a fascination with Daddy’s questionable career.

After two high profile and big budgeted films (Hannibal and Black Hawk Down), Ridley Scott came back to earth quite a bit with a more intimate dark comedy film about two con men.  The film focuses really on its drama and the intriguing world of “pulling one” on people that you can’t just but help lean forward as if you’re about to learn something.  Ridley Scott’s little film also features some of the best blend of characters and performances he’d had in what felt like quite a while (Or maybe just a few movies).

This film was made during a time where Nicholas Cage was still truly a force with some star power.  This was in the midst of a couple “For me” more juicy dramatic roles for him before he’d go on to something bigger with the first National Treasure the following year.  He just had Adaptation. and this was following up.  And he’s absolutely terrific here, in what is easily one of his best performances of the 00’s and for his career.  He has the whole OCD down so much that you feel it and get nervous for him.  Cage also unleashes some of his legendary over the top campiness in some moments as well (“PISS! BLOOD!”).  People poke fun at him all the time, but he’s truly a great and gifted performer that is always aware of the material and production he’s presented with and gives his full commitment to the performance every time.

Paired up with Cage was the rising Sam Rockwell.  I think this film was one of my first experiences with his talent post-Galaxy Quest (I didn’t see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind til after this).  He’s terrific here and he and Cage definitely share some good chemistry.  Rockwell and his character are so good that you could have flipped a coin on which character to follow and the film still would have been just as interesting.  Alison Lohman is also a great fit in the film and gives a terrific performance.  This was a sort of jumping off point for her into bigger things.  I’ve always liked the actress…and honestly…where has she been?  Its good to see she’s popping up again, but she hadn’t done a film since 2009 (Gamer) before this year.  With this and Drag Me To Hell, I was really quite fond of her.

Matchstick Men is just a movie that really just pleases on all accords.  If you haven’t seen it, I didn’t want to spoil or give the slightest hints to this movies doings in this review.  But, its absolutely great and one of Ridley Scott’s very best films.  The entire cast is outstanding and the film will have you laughing, learning, feeling and even tensed up with some thrills.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  It’s nice to see that Matchstick Men wasn’t an afterthought at Warner Bros.  This one looks quite lovely.  Its a solid, sharp image that is bold and comes off the screen even a little bit.  Detail is quite impressive and the image has a slight vividness to it.

Depth:  There is a decent work on dimension here.  Spacing is a strong suit, with characters and objects moving smoothly and freely in the frame.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and bring plenty of enhancement to the sharpening and shading.  Minor detail hidden, but still can make out patterns and textures on dark objects.  No crushing.

Color Reproduction:  There is a blue filter set to most of the movie, so obviously blues stick out quite well.  Green look decent and all the colors here feature different tints and look quite bold and have a slightly polished but natural look to them.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural with a slight blue hue to them.  Facial details are evident in close-ups as well as medium shots, revealing freckles, pores, make-up, wrinkles and stubble.

Noise/Artifacts:  Very clean.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Castillian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin) 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Thai 2.0 Dolby Digital, Turkish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital (Not on menu, only accessed by surfing)

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics:  Matchstick Men isn’t some incredible action-based film, but it sounds really pretty here in its lossless 5.1 track.  Environments feel as they should, with impressive turns in an airport and Mexican restaurant settings.  Its gets loud when it has to and really captures a balanced appeal with the vocal track, score and sound effects in the mix.

Low Frequency Extension:  The LFE gets involved to enhance the score and effects like car engines, doors shutting and stuff being dropped on surfaces.  There isn’t a whole lot to ask of it, but the subwoofer does do its part quite well when needed.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Characters and their actions are well chronicled in their movements and distances in the frame.  Rear speakers get in on the action with a terrific display of ambiance that has its own actions and moving pieces.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean with plenty of clarity set to a perfect volume.

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Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Ridley Scott and Writers Nicholas Griffin and Ted Griffin

Tricks of the Trade: Making Matchstick Men (SD, 1:11:46) – A 3-part documentary that chronicles the full production of the film.  It begins with pre-production with location scouting and such, through to the production all the way to editing and scoring the film.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:34)

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Summary 

I loved Matchstick Men back when I rented the film in 2003/4ish and I still am quite fond of it now.  Its a Top 5 Ridley Scott film for me.  I’d have to go back and think longer, but it might even crack my Top 5 Nicholas Cage movies and performances as well.  Its just a flat out great little movie.  Darkly comic, dramatic, thrilling, involving and a tad mysterious, the film really gets you going in many directions.  And its great to say that the film comes looking and sound marvelous on Blu-ray.  Warner doesn’t slouch on the extras either, as it features a commentary and feature length documentary on the movie.  This is a must have movie and it has debuted this week at an absolutely unbeatable new release price.  Don’t get stuck overcleaning your house, take your pills and go pick up the Blu-ray of Matchstick Men.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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