A novice con man teams up with an acknowledged master to avenge the murder of a mutual friend by pulling off the ultimate big con and swindling a fortune from a big-time mobster.
Not only does it sting, it floats like a butterfly as well. Academy Award Winner Best Picture, Academy Award Winner Best Director-George Roy Hill, Academy Award Winner Best Screenplay-David S. Ward, Academy Award Winner Best Editing-William Reynolds, Academy Award Winner Best Song Score-Marvin Hamlisch, Academy Award Winner Best Art Direction/Set Decoration-Bumstead & Payne, Academy Award Winner Best Costume Design-Edith Head, Nominated for Best Actor (Redford), Best Cinematography, Best Sound. Few films can draw me in and indulge me on repeat viewings like The Sting does, it was barely 36 hours ago when I sat there talking to the screen offering advice like I was in the flipping film. I have seen it written that the film's success was only garnered because of the star appeal of the leads! Well for starters that is an insult to Robert Shaw who may be accused of overdoing it at times, but his portrayal of Lonnegan is a complete joy, witness the fury on his face during an on train poker game as the irrepressible Newman does comedy gold. Visually the film is a delight, and the story fuses together to culminate in an ending that not only stings with impact; but also floats like a cinematic butterfly. 10/10
Say what you like about the undoubted chemistry between Paul Newman ("Henry") and Robert Redford ("Johnny") this film belongs to a superb effort from the understated but hugely entertaining Robert Shaw. He's the hard-nosed gangster "Lonnegan" who gets (anonymously) fleeced by a "Johnny" who quickly decides that discretion is the better part of valour and gets out of Dodge. It's at this stage that the two grifters decide that their mark could be good for a great deal more money and so set up an elaborate operation purporting to be an undercover betting (on horses) proposition. Now "Lonnegan" ain't no easy target and every step they take is filled with danger - but slowly and surely the two, alongside a veritable army of fellow cons, start to piece together the ultimate lure for this clever, but ultimately greedy, man. Can they pull it off? Can they pull it off and survive? The films looks great, the writing is quickly-paced, humorous and it allows for loads of engagement between almost everyone - including an on-form Eileen Brennan and the charismatic "Kid Twist" (Harold Gould). The aesthetics are fabulous too - the sets, costumes, cars - even the tommy guns - all work really well adding huge richness to this cracking tale of the worm that turned. The Scott Joplin accompaniment is just icing on the cake of this classy and stylishly entertaining crime drama that I still love watching, fifty years on.
**It is imperative to rediscover this magnificent film.** There are many films about con artists and confidence games (Ocean’s Eleven and its two or three sequels, for example), but I had never seen one that was so good-natured and in which the main characters were so likable. It's a light, family comedy from the 70s, in which a group of tricksters decides to risk their lives to deceive a powerful and rich mobster in order to avenge a friend, killed by his hitmen. This film was, at the time, a huge financial success in the USA and won notable awards, especially seven Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Soundtrack, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Editing and Best Art Direction! Therefore, it is difficult to believe that a film with such qualities has been forgotten, but it is true. I never saw it on television, I never heard much about it, I don't think it even had much visibility outside his country of origin. In Portugal there wasn't, but I understand why: the film premiered the day before the country experienced a military coup against the government, and the rest of that year was very complicated here, so no one was very willing to go to the movies. Therefore, I think that recapping this film and bringing it back to theater, in a possibly restored version, would be a gesture of complete justice to its quality. The film has three enormous actors who deserve praise for the work done here: Robert Redford shows value and talent in a film that will open many doors for him, Robert Shaw offers us one of the best dramatic exercises of his artistic maturity and Paul Newman shines and enchants us in the role of an elegant and friendly swindler full of tricks. Seeing these three great actors together on stage is simply delightful. The film also has a good secondary cast, with Robert Earl Jones, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Ray Walston and other good artists. On a technical level, we have to surrender to the impeccable cinematography achieved by the meticulous eye of director George Roy Hill, in cooperation with a team of good professionals, and which perfectly emulates old films from the 30s with the advantage of color, in tones deliberately brownish, golden and yellowish. The sets, props and costumes are simply incredible: the cars can make classic admirers salivate and the costumes deserve a place in the closet of any gentleman with a taste for the “old-style” elegance they exude. The period is well recreated and the situations balance dramatic tension and humor well. The soundtrack is solidly based on Scott Joplin's piano melodies and is wonderful to listen to, and the titles are magnificently well-designed and have art in themselves. It's a long film, two hours long, but it's so delightful to watch and so well edited that time flies by.