I wanted to keep the ball rolling after my friend David made some comments on Matchstick Men being good, but not quintessential Ridley Scott. I know it lacks the visual power of Blade Runner, but there are points in Matchstick Men where you feel that a master is at work.
Two favorite shots:
When Roy (Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell) are at the couple’s place (con #1), Cage freaks out, presumably because he has no more medication. The scene starts normally enough. Cage is smooth and the con seems to be going well. Then slowly, Cage starts losing it. Then, the dog starts scratching at the screen door to get out. When the screen door slides open, we move into a weird, slow/fast motion hallucination from Cage’s POV, where he looks at Sam Rockwell, and all around Rockwell’s image, the outdoor vegetation turns a bright golden yellow color.
I also love the little shot somewhere in the middle where Cage is driving and in the station wagon in front of him, there are these kids making scary faces at him. Since the whole movie makes you wonder about Cage’s mental state, shots like this are powerful, and I must say hilarious, too.
When you read the screenplay, which I picked up from Drew’s Script o Rama, you get another sense of how much Ridley Scott brings to the film. For example, in one scene, where the script basically says, Roy and Frank meet at the airport, watch the scene in the movie. Frank is smoking a cigarette on the upper level, spying Roy as he walks down below. At just the right moment, he tosses his empty styrofoam cup so it lands just where Roy is standing. When they meet, Roy warns Frank about not being discrete. These flourishes certainly don’t move the plot forward, but they bring a lot of richness and depth to the scenes.
It’s interesting to talk about Ridley Scott and his talent. It reminds me of the talk on Thelma and Louise, which I think is a near perfect film*. Anyway, I heard that writer Callie Khouri was thinking about directing the film herself. We’ll never know what that film would have looked like. But I don’t know if it would have been as satisfying. Would first time director Khouri have known how to tease out the wonderful performances? More importantly, would she have been able to bring out the mythic quality of this story the way Ridley Scott does in filming Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.
*(My only regret is that Keitel is not at all believable as a Texas Ranger. What were they thinking there?!!)