If you have never seen The Sting before, my recommendation is to see it immediately. This is such a fun, wonderful movie and it’s another example why 1973 was a great year in movies. The film is very stylish to look at and it gave me the authentic 1930s feeling although I get a feeling the art designer went a little beyond the authenticity. That being said, the production design and the costumes are excellent features of this movie. But not only is this film stylish, it also has a deep plot. Credit goes to director George Roy Hill for making this movie understandable and enjoyable for the mass audience. The movie does have a tendency to get overly complicated at times because of all the twists and turns that come out of nowhere-and to great effect. The first time I watched the movie, I fell in love with it but I was completely lost by the ending in the final showdown. My second viewing had me understand what was going on and that is all because of the excellent directing by Hill.
If you only had two words to describe the plot, the best two words to use would be “revenge con.” After all, this story is about revenge but not in the typical violent way. Revenge is got in the way of performing a big con. Anyway, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) are two con men who meet up due to the murder of a mutual friend. Henry is an older, more accomplished con man while Johnny is a young man, but despite his great talent, he can be rash and cocky. They get together to avenge the death of their friend, which was caused by the mob boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Featuring a poker game, a fake wire room for horse bets, the involvement of the police, and many twists and turns, this story will take you for a fun ride.
The writing and direction are big reasons why this film was successful, but another reason was the acting. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are not actors I would normally call funny, but here they inhabit their characters with some comedy and it works out perfectly. Newman brings a veteran presence in this movie and as always, he does a magnificent job in the role as Henry. He made Henry a drunk, but a very competent and skilled con man who turns into almost a father figure for Johnny. Robert Redford is a star on the rise and this movie, which nominated him for an Academy Award, helped him achieve stardom. He was very charming here and the way he pulls of his cons make him even more charming. Robert Shaw excels at playing the villain, so its no surprise how well he does as Doyle Lonnegan. Shaw gives the mob boss an aura of menace and if you watch the poker game between Shaw and Newman, you’ll see just how effective Shaw is. Charles Durning plays the intimidating cop on everyone’s trail and does well.
The screenplay, written by David S. Ward, is one of the best screenplays I had the fortune to read. Sure his words were executed flawlessly on screen by the actors, but after all a good movie cannot exist with a bad screenplay. Ward gave his movie excellent dialogue, a fast pace, and many twists that can be complicated. That is where we come into the directing. George Roy Hill directed the 1967 classic, Butch Sundance and the Cassidy Kid (which I haven’t seen yet), but I hear how influential that movie is to modern cinema. This film needed good directing to make the story connect with the audience, and Hill does a magnificent job. This movie could have easily been a mumble jumble of a mess. The beginning scene where Redford performs a con worked beautifully thanks to Hill and the final hour where Newman and Redford had to pretend not to know each other, while taking turns to perform their beig heist on Lonnegan sounds impossible to do, but Hill did a wonderful job in making everything work.
Another part of the movie that adds to the vibrant, fun aura of the movie is the music, which was adapted by Marvin Hamslich. He makes good use of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music. His music faded from popularity by the 1930’s (the decade of this film), but his music still had the perfect kind of tone this movie had. This is another reason why I loved the movie: to listen to the great music.
I very much enjoyed The Sting. It was a very fun movie to watch from start to finish. The movie tended to get a little complicated at times, but the direction of film is why the movie did not lose me. This was superbly written and wonderfully acted. Newman and Redford looked like they were having fun and they have great chemistry together. The movie looked very stylish thanks to the art direction and costume designs. This movie gave off a fun atmosphere and that’s all I wanted. Nominated for ten Oscars and winning seven of them (including Best Picture and Director), this film is a must-see if you want an entertaining movie.
My Grade: A