Monday, October 21, 2013

#1,162. The Sting (1973)

Directed By: George Roy Hill

Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw

Tag line: "...all it takes is a little Confidence"

Trivia: In a recent interview with The New York Times, Robert Redford confessed that the first time he actually saw The Sting was Christmas of 2004

One of the most refreshingly entertaining movies ever to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, George Roy Hill’s Depression-era comedy / drama The Sting features one incredible twist after another, culminating in a grand finale that’s sure to amaze you.

Following the murder of their mutual friend, Luther (Robert Earl Jones), two-bit grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) teams up with Henry Gondoriff (Paul Newman), a professional confidence man from Chicago, to pull the ultimate con on gangster Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), the man responsible for Luther’s death. Hoping to bilk the unsuspecting criminal out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Hooker and Gondoriff, with the help of fellow grifter Kid Twist (Harold Gould) and a few dozen others, put into play a reliable old swindle called “The Wire”, which involves horse racing and an off-track betting parlor.

And what a great swindle it is! In fact, for the majority of The Sting, we, the audience, are as much a sucker as anyone in the film, continually getting the wool pulled over our eyes as we try to figure out who’s conning who. In the midst of planning their grand scheme, Hooker is approached by FBI agent Polk (Dana Elcar), who wants his help in bringing Gondoriff to justice (Gondoriff has been laying low for years to avoid the Feds). Reluctant at first to give his new partner up, Hooker has a change of heart when Polk threatens to put the heat on Luther’s widow instead. This introduces yet another twist to the story: will Hooker sell out Gondoriff to the Feds, or is he working an angle of his own?

Just 4 years after their initial pairing in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Newman and Redford again play likable thieves in The Sting, but with a slight spin on their characters (this time around, Redford is the brash, impulsive one, while Newman portrays the sturdy professional). Slipping comfortably into their roles and supported by a strong cast (also of note is Charles Durning, who’s at his slimy best as a corrupt cop on Lonnegan’s payroll), the two actors are as charming as ever, all in service of a story so wonderfully clever that it’ll keep you guessing to the end.

1 comment:

John DeBoer said...

This is one of those movies I could watch dozens of times and not tire of it. Great plot, twists, and Hamlisch's musical score. I love con-game films, anyway, but this has to be at the top of the genre.