Review: The Sting (1973)

The Sting (1973)

Directed by: George Roy Hill | 129 minutes | comedy, crime, drama | Actors: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, John Heffernan, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, Dimitra Arliss, Robert Earl Jones, James Sloyan, Charles Dierkop, Lee Paul

Some partnerships are worth gold. When Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Martin Scorsese make a film together, it is bound to result in a sample of high-quality cinema and a blockbuster. Just look at ‘Raging Bull’, ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino’. Robert Redford, Paul Newman and director George Roy Hill also have a special and close bond. Together they made an unforgettable impression on the moviegoer in 1969 with ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. In 1973 they did it all over again with ‘The Sting’, one of the best crime comedies ever made.

In the America of 1936, the underclass does not have it easy. The Depression years put a heavy stamp on the lives of the common man, causing the ingenuity to earn money to take on fascinating forms. One of those smart guys is Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) who one day cheats the wrong man for his money, which he gambles right away, leaving his best friend and associate Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones, indeed the father of James Earl Jones) murdered. When Johnny learns that the mighty Irishman Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) is behind this, he contacts professional con artist and phenom Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) to put together an ingenious double play to take down Lonnegan.

Rumor has it that lead actor Robert Redford didn’t see the film for the first time until 2004. Then he must have missed something all along, because ‘The Sting’ is an excellent and very entertaining film. In addition to Redford and Newman, Charles Durning as Police Officer Schnyder, Ray Walston as JJ Singleton, Eileen Brennan as Billie, and Harold Gould as Kid Twist play excellent supporting roles. What is especially striking about this film is the impressive art direction of Henry Bumstead. The film is, as it were, divided into episodes. The transition between these chapters is supported by the famous piano rags of Scott Joplin (1868-1917). And while these tunes are from the early 1900s, they fit perfectly with this 1930s story and have been inextricably linked to this film ever since.

‘The Sting’ won no fewer than seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay by David S. Ward. Ten years later, another ‘The Sting II’ would be made, but without Newman and Redford. It’s no surprise that the film wasn’t nearly as well received as the original. Redford’s mischievous face and Newman’s shrewd mannerisms really give this film something extra. Add to that the unique combination of art direction and music, the successful humor and the brilliant screenplay and you get a masterpiece that you should definitely see.

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