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Hoping that box-office lighting might strike twice, George Roy Hill again joined forces with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who star as... Read More
Hoping that box-office lighting might strike twice, George Roy Hill again joined forces with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who star as con men Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker in THE STING. In the Chicago of the 1930s, Johnny's partner, Luther (Robert Earl Jones), is fatally wounded by a victim of one of their scams who turns out to be powerful syndicate boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Eager for revenge, Johnny takes a tip from his dying partner and seeks out mutual friend Gondorff, a consummate master of the long con. Gondorff rouses himself from his alcoholic inertia and agrees to help Johnny take down the despicable Lonnegan, conscripting an army of grifters ready to avenge their friend's death. The labyrinthine plot, which is stuffed with false leads, red herrings, and a double-cross-a-minute, involves a fake bookie joint, a very persistent FBI agent, a bunch of corrupt cops, and one shifty dame. An extremely entertaining film, the Oscar-winning film transcends the genre through the superb actin... Minimize
22 Reviews from Epinions.com
Sep 1, 2009
The Sting - Newman Teaches Redford the Art of the Con
Pros: story, acting, setting, costumes, pace
The Bottom Line:
This is a great film that really keeps the first-time viewer guessing, but holds up well to repeated viewing. Definitely a favorite of mine for more than sentimental reasons.
I can remember one of the first films my parents ever took me to see that wasn’t geared toward children was The Sting. It was a double-feature at a local theater and for the life of me, I can’t remember what the other film playing was. Through the years, The Sting has remained one of my favorite films and something I’ll jump to if I happen to catch it on television.
The film opens in 1936 Joliet, Illinois. Johnny Hooker (portrayed by Robert Redford) seems to be helping an old man who's just been mugged. It's actually an elaborate ruse to pull a con. Unfortunately, the subject of their con happens to be tied to the local rackets. When they are fingered for the con, Johnny's partner, Luther (portrayed by Robert Earl Jones), is killed.
Johnny then seeks out Henry Condor (portrayed by Paul Newman) who is an old friend of Luther's. Luther had told Johnny he could learn quite a bit from Henry. The two partner up and draw in a wide circle of people to pull off an elaborate ruse not only on local racketeer Doyle Lonnegan (portrayed by Robert Shaw) as well as local law enforcement.
The bulk of the story here is the elaborate cat and mouse game that Johnny and Henry play with their target. The first time anyone views this, it’s not entirely clear what’s going as planned and when there’s a monkey-wrench being thrown into their plans. Things are not always what they appear and this is the suspense. It’s also what keeps the viewer entertained and watching the film. Even after having viewed it numerous times over the years, it becomes a work of art to see how well-crafted their plan is.
Credit for that goes to a tightly written script by David S. Ward. There’s little extraneous material here and the characters are developed well in the course of the story. Director George Roy Hill has a terrific knack for pacing the story and getting the most from a tremendous cast.
Henry Gondorff (portrayed by Paul Newman)
Johnny Hooker (portrayed by Robert Redford)
Doyle Lonnegan (portrayed by Robert Shaw)
Lt. Snyder (portrayed by Charles Durning)
Singleton (portrayed by Ray Walston)
Billie (portrayed by Eileen Brennan)
Kid Twist (portrayed by Harold Gould)
Eddie Niles (portrayed by John Heffernan
Agent Polk (portrayed by Dana Elcar)
Erie Kid (portrayed by Jack Kehoe)
Loretta (portrayed by Dimitra Arliss)
The acting is superb. Newman and Redford appeared together in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid prior to The Sting and although Johnny and Henry are hardly the buddies Butch and Sundance were, they manage to draw on some of the same warmth between the characters. Eileen Brennan is perhaps one of the most under-rated actresses of her era, and watching her here holding her own opposite Newman is a delight.
The other plus is the attention to the details of the time period, which is apparent from the opening scene. The sets are authentic down to the last detail. The costuming is terrific from the suits that Johnny and Henry wear to the uniforms on the police officers. There’s the subtle distinctions in these as well as there’s just enough of a difference in the way Johnny and Henry appear versus Doyle Lonnegan to show he is not a run of the mill grifter like they are, but has reached a higher level of notoriety in the crime world.
The soundtrack is excellent as well, using the piano extensively that sets a bit of a whimsical tone to what’s going on. The Entertainer as the theme to this film became a staple in the piano lessons of a generation of children, myself included.
The DVD has improved in quality over the years if you first saw it on an early disk. There’s a separate disk for bonus features, which I really think was a waste. There really wasn‘t all that much there that it had to be put on a separate disc. The documentary The Art of The Sting is worth watching just to listen to the actors reminisce, especially Newman and Redford.
The Sting is still a great film all these years later, and holds up quite well to repeated viewing. The period setting helps prevent it from being dated in the era in which it was made. Newman and Redford are fantastic as these characters. The pace is terrific and keeps the viewer wondering about exactly what is going on. It’s just a fun film that doesn’t falter at all.
• The Art of The Sting
• Production Notes
• Theatrical Trailer
Reviews of other Robert Redford films:
Brubaker ~ Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid ~ The Candidate ~ Jeremiah Johnson ~ The Last Castle ~ The Natural ~ Out of Africa ~ Sacred Planet
© 2009 Patti Aliventi
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