Rule one in writing a film about conmen. Name it after a name for conmen. Hence Confidence, The Grifters and the somewhat implausibly titled Matchstick Men. Unfortunately no Matchstick Cats’n’Dogs in attendance here – though there is a kid on the corner of the street, with a skateboard. All Matchstick Men really amounts to is a Nicholas Cage acting masterclass. Which is a pity because after Adaptation I thought he had finally got out of his bug eyed, slightly crazy over-acting. Still, at least he is actually playing a bug-eyed, crazy guy in this one.

Ridley Scott post Gladiator has obviously started worrying about mortality. Perhaps he took a look at Kubrick and noticed while his films were well loved, there weren’t actually that many of them. So Ridley has been knocking them out at a rate of knots, deliberately doing the kind of films he is not known for. Here he shows he can happily direct a tricksy conman comedy, it just is not very distinctive. When the major personal stamp on the movie is a use of George Formeby’s I’m Leaning On A Lamp-post. We know we are moving away from auteurville.

The nothing-special feel of Matchstick Men belies its entertainment value. If you can put up with Cage as a OCD sufferer then you might rather enjoy this. It suckered me completely for its final reel, though said twist is on reflection wholly implausible. The biggest question mark has been on its actual ending. Does it need this tagged on happy ending or not? Me, I liked the semi-happy ending. I completely understand why other people don’t, but for me it was more about the central character. The film is not really all about the machinations of a con, it is more about the development of Cage’s character. So where he is left before the One Year Later is a desperate place, a place which could well lead to suicide. Which is a bad place for such a genuinely likeable character. So I had no problem with the loose end tying up (no matter how obvious). Sometimes you want a bit of schmaltz and in a film which tries so hard to be likeable, you can’t help but want to like it. Stops it being iconic maybe, starts it being fun.