Two conmen join forces to make that one big hit that will set them up for life, getting revenge for a murdered partner at the same time.
Hooker (Robert Redford) and his partner Luther (Robert Earl Jones) pull of a scam that nets them over $10,000, quite a sum in 30’s America. But they’ve stolen from an employee of a major player, Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) and he wants revenge.
To show he can’t be messed with Lonnegan orders the deaths of both the men known to have ripped him off.
After Luther is killed, Hooker goes on the run and asks for help from Gondorff (Paul Newman), a specialist in elaborate setups designed to con large players out of serious money.
Gondorff agrees and brings in his associates and a huge, movie like series of sets, setups and scenes designed draw Lonnegan into the scam begin to take shape.
Of course, all the time they are busy with this, Lonnegan’s men are hunting down the missing conman from the original scam.
Really doesn’t sound like a comedy does it?
Turning a plausible thriller into a comedy takes skill. Actors have to be more credible than in an out-and-out drama, the script has to snuggly connect and not be too self-knowing, the sets need to provide the atmosphere suitable to the period and inspiration.
The Sting provides all this, and more. A glorious re-incarnation of what, to me, looks like 30’s Chicago. I’m no history scholar though and I’m sure there are anachronisms – I just don’t see them.
The actors are of course excellent. First we start with classy performances from Robert Redford and Paul Newman. This represents the second and final collaboration of the Hollywood legends and was even more successful than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, picking up seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.
But further down the cast list, the director (George Roy Hill) has wrung excellent performances out of his actors. Robert Shaw’s actual serious knee injury is almost a character in itself. Shaw’s that excellent just dormant volcano of violence that he does so well.
Then the crew of con artists is brimming with good performances. led by Ray Walston, Charles Durning and Harold Gould the “setup” is believable and sucks you in. Eileen Brennan is the sole serious female presence to the movie but does stand out, quietly and confidently.
the comedy mostly comes from the fact that the audience are in on the “hit” and can see what’s coming. Similar to Butch and Sundance, there are few so called jokes, it’s all situational humour here.
Things to look out for: a surprise assassin, the initial tap on money runner, how much work goes into the setup, “To win???“, Robert Shaw acting his socks off with a busted leg, a pickpocket sets up a cheating poker game that sets up the big play, “What am I supposed to do? Call him for cheating better than me?“,
Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Ray Walston, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould
Rating: very classy movie, very well executed, very highly recommended
…sorry I missed out on putting 101 Dalmations on Day 101. I wonder what movie will be next?