#97: The Sting [1973]

I have to admit, I’d never heard of this film before I started this challenge. I would have recognised Paul Newman and Robert Redford as famous names, but couldn’t have told you why... I’m so ashamed. But, I made my ignorance of the film industry clear from the outset, so you’ll have to forgive me. My education is so uncomfortably public. Briefly, then, con men Henry Gondorff (Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Redford) join forces to cheat a 1930s mob boss (Doyle Lonnegan/Robert Shaw), and they aim big. Whilst I’ll leave you to Google the full plot summary, I can categorically confirm that this film is great.
My admiration was confirmed when I turned to my viewing buddy (Tom) and said, ‘You know, for what is essentially a pretty slow film, it has me completely gripped’.  In fact, just before the ‘sting’ itself,  I had to ask if we could pause the DVD briefly so I could compose myself. There are few deaths, there is minimal violence, and there are absolutely no explosions, yet this movie had me more excited than Indiana Jones ever did. It’s the gradual build up of tension and anticipation which keeps us so hooked; we’re simply impressed by the ingenious exploits of these grifters. The scriptwriter deserved his Oscar.
As did the director. George Roy Hill does David Ward’s script proud by maintaining the joviality and comedy which give this film its character. While there are some dark ideas at work in The Sting, crooked cops and murderous mob bosses being the more obvious ones, Hill manages to keep the movie jocular and therefore extremely watchable. There isn’t an honest character in the whole film, yet we can’t help but love Gondorff, Hooker and their band of merry con men. This is largely achieved by the buoyant score (featuring such hits as ‘The Entertainer’) and the well-lit scenes which negate any apprehension. Newman’s and Redford’s chiselled American faces help too.
This might be a ridiculous statement for a female viewer, but the love interests fall well below par in terms of the women’s attractiveness. Be it bad casting or some point of subtlety I’ve missed, the only two women in this movie are not pretty. OK, that might be harsh, but it’s also true. This is my one main criticism of The Sting. Hollywood, if you’re going to force romance onto our screens, please make it partially credible. I much preferred observing Gondorff and Hooker’s unfolding relationship. The value of friendship is a powerful theme throughout The Sting, acting as another device to make this such an enjoyable movie.
Honestly? I wish I’d watched this film before so that I could give you some more interesting insights. It’s certainly one to watch again, as I found it hard enough keeping up with the various plots and schemes, let alone paying close attention to the art of the thing. As it is, I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Robert Redford has changed my opinions about blonde men.

Tom’s summary: ‘Bromance at it’s best’.

Comments

  1. What's wrong with blonde men? I like this film, but for me the music is the focus. Joplin's ragtime piano is haunting throughout. Newman & Redford were riding off the back (so to speak) of the phenominally popular 'Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid' from 4 years previously, but on any level this is an entertainer.

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    1. Yeah Tom and I were pretty shocked it wasnt on the top 100. My list of films is exponentially expanding. You can borrow the DVD if you like.

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