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ChildCare Action Project:
Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP Ministry)
Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

(2003), PG-13

Analysis Date
CAP Final Score
CAP Influence Density
September 3, 2003
23 out of 100

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UPDATED September 4, 2003
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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Site Map (Table of Contents). Further, if you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

(2003), PG-13 -- Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you.

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Warner Bros., ImageMovers, HorsePower Entertainment, LivePlanet, Rickshaw Productions
Distribution (US): Warner Bros.
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Producer(s): Sean Bailey, Gianina Facio, Ted Griffin, Jack Rapke, Charles J.D. Schlissel, Ridley Scott, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
Written by/Screenplay: Book: Eric Garcia. Screenplay: Nicholas Griffin, Ted Griffin
Cinematography/Camera: John Mathieson
Music: James Michael Dooley, Geoff Zanelli, Hans Zimmer
Film Editing: Dody Dorn
Casting: Debra Zane
Production Design: Tom Foden
Art Direction: Michael Manson
Viewed At: Loews at Keystone, Dallas, Texas

By the trailers/previews, Matchstick Men is a seemingly light and pleasant romp through a tale of daddy being united with the daughter he has never seen who is now 14 years old. Trouble is, when daddy finally gets together with his daughter he starts to build a growing bonding with her by teaching her how to be a criminal. [Luke 17:2] Even the high wattage performances of big screen veteran Nicholas Cage cannot excuse everything. While all would seem cake-n-ice cream for the daring duo's hopes for a lucrative life of crime, a twist in the plot gives meaning to an old saying that states "Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you." (Mr. Wuntch, Dallas Morning News! Remember. I told you at the screening the bear line is mine! Don't you dare use it.) Another expression that fits is "There is no honor among thieves."

Roy Fen ... I think it was Fen ... he used several aliases so let us just say "Roy" (Nicholas Cage) is a con man -- err -- con artist, a matchstick man working with another con artist, Frank (Sam Rockwell) to con money from unsuspecting, innocent victims [Ex. 20:15]. Roy is also an agoraphobe. He doesn't like the outdoors. And Roy is an obsessive clean freak. No one is allowed to wear shoes in his house and one detached tuft of carpet yarn will send him into a cleaning frenzy. Roy also has a condition that causes him to display several forms of tics when he gets excited, nervous or scared. But these setbacks do not seem to impact his ability to make a living .. a living through crime. [Hab. 2:9] Oddly enough, Cage is excellent in portraying this sort of character. Better than I would have expected of the gung-ho "Rambo" type.

When Roy accidentally dumps his tic medication down the garbage disposal, he finds his psychiatrist has suddenly disappeared. Frank suggests that Roy try a new psychiatrist, Dr. Harris Klein (Bruce Altman). Dr. Klein provides Roy with a new medication so Roy soon gets back to par. During his sessions with Dr. Klein, Roy admits guilt in that he may have a daughter. Roy's wife was pregnant when she left him 14 years ago. Part of Roy's "therapy" was to contact his ex-wife and try to meet the daughter he never knew. Now shows up Roy's bright and sparkly but worldly 14 year old daughter with an attitude, Angela (Alison Lohman) who is anxious to build a relationship with her daddy. Lohman's experience in "It ain't good enough, no matter what 'it' is" from White Oleander and the acclaim she received for it served her well in Matchstick Men. Angela is a vulnerable troubled teen with a "sorted past" that made her worldly enough to understand what daddy does for a living. ... and anxious to join him. [Luke 17:2]

Angela's first job, as a test of what daddy has taught her, was to con a laundromat customer (Beth Grant) out of $300. And Angela is successful. But Roy, thinking he knew what it meant to be a father, made Angela immediately return the money he taught her how to steal (is there something wrong with this picture?). Angela now has a taste of the wine of successful crime. During one of the con jobs that landed some cash Angela muttered that she thought crime does not pay. To that, daddy told her "It does pay. Just not very well." [Hab. 2:12] while hoarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

Caper after caper led what once was a duo, now a trio, to believe they could make it big [Eccl. 8:11],. So they decided to squeeze bucks out of shady millionaire, Chuck Frechette (Bruce McGill). But this con does not go well. Not well indeed. Not well for Roy or for Frank or Angela. At least, that is what we are led to believe. But no matter the true aftermath for others, it did not go well at all for Frechette.

I am not going to spoil the whole plot for you just in case you decide that the listing of assaults on morality and decency revealed in the Findings/Scoring section of this report are not so severe that you would not take your family to see Matchstick Men. It's your call as mom/dad. We tell you what is there and we offer some of God's Word about some of the noted behaviors.

Matchstick Men is one more example of becoming conditioned to accept that which once was unacceptable. Indeed, we have become so drugged by the narcotics of immoral extremes that what once was morally unacceptable has become morally invisible. But not to God. [1 Cor. 15:33] And you may quote me on that.

The seemingly severe score Matchstick Men earned is due not to any particularly severe instances of assault on morality and decency but is due to such a massive density of lesser assaults. Matchstick Men is an example of our Rule of 1000 that states a movie with only 10 examples of extreme bad behaviors worth 100 "bads" each (such as a movie rated R) is just as bad as a movie with 100 examples of lesser bad behaviors worth only ten "bads" each (such as a PG-13 movie). They both fit the Rule of 1000. They are both R-equivalent. So is Matchstick Men. With R-rated movies earning scores of 54 and below out of 100, Matchstick Men earned a score of 24.

To summarize the Finings/Scoring section, in addition to the above, there are 29 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary, several of them by or before a teen. God's name in used in vain many times both with and without the four letter expletive, some by or before a teen. There is a teen tantrum to her father, mentions of homosexuality, rear male nudity and admissions of sexual immoral behaviors by a teen as if acceptable and excessive teen cleavage [Rev. 22:15]. Angela even ends up cohabitating with a guy at the end of the show. In the later third or so of the film, behaviors are sometimes brutal ending up in defensive murder. The listing in the Findings/Scoring section provides all the findings noted.

SPECIAL NOTE: We will be reducing the volume of coverage in the Summary/Commentary section of our reports and the number of reports generated in an effort to reduce costs until full funding can be achieved. The Findings/Scoring section of each report, the heart of the analysis model, will NOT be reduced in any way.

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If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Ex. 20:15 Thou shalt not steal. [Recall John 10:10 and what it has to say about stealing. Who is the thief in John 10:10? Satan! God associates stealing with Satan! That is what God thinks about stealing.]
  • John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
  • Hab. 2:9 Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!
  • Hab. 2:12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! [The "city" or "town" is a place guarded by waking or a watch and could be wealth.]
  • Eccl. 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
  • Rev. 22:15 Outside [of Heaven] are the dogs, those [unforgiven] who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it]. [I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent, situationally redefine, counterfeit, conditionally apply] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.


    Matchstick Men (2003) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • fraud, repeatedly
  • lies, repeatedly
  • planning crime as a friendship reward
  • ill-gotten booty
  • taking daughter along in crime, repeatedly
  • daughter participating in and assisting in crime with father
  • teen tantrum to distract to facilitate crime
  • attack/assault endangering teen girl
  • firearm
  • beating (unseen, only spitting up blood is seen)
  • threat with firearm of teen as well as others
  • beating injuries
  • threat to kill
  • extorting to continue in crime using teen daughter as leverage
  • teen using firearm as offensive weapon in defense of her father
  • impersonating police officer, repeatedly
  • reckless attitude in traffic
  • reckless driving with endangerment

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • 29 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary, five by a teen
  • a single use of the most foul of the foul words
  • re: medication drugs: "I was getting them illegally. So what?"
  • considering suicide
  • run-away after argument with mom
  • "I will if I want!" at mother
  • teen tantrum at father
  • "Crime *does* pay. Just not very well."
  • "You did very good" to daughter for criminal act
  • teen double vulgar gesture
  • "I love you" due to togetherness in crime
  • ordering daughter to lie about who shot whom

    Sexual Immorality (S)
  • feigning homosexuality to commit fraud
  • vulgar self-touching
  • bar dancer with thong nudity
  • prostitution
  • vulgar gesture
  • teen girl admitting to sexually immoral behavior as if acceptable
  • rear male nudity
  • dressing to maximize female form and/or skin exposure
  • excessive cleavage - teen
  • cohabitation for sex

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking, dense
  • booze, repeatedly
  • bar, repeatedly
  • teen drinking beer
  • drinking, repeatedly
  • illegal use of prescription drugs

    Offense to God (O)
  • three uses of God's name i vain with the four letter expletive and 14 without
  • "I really liked it" about exposing daughter to crime
  • daughter showing pride in father's criminal expertise

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • defensive murder by gunfire

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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