Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Sting

4 years after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul Newman and Robert Redford are reunited on screen once again and directed again by George Roy Hill, for our great pleasure, in The Sting (1973), which won the best picture Oscar in 1973.

Johnny Hooker (Redford) is a conman whose partner-in-crime is assassinated by the mob. To get revenge on Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), the mob boss, he seeks the help of great con artist Henry Gondorff for the « big con ». The movie chronicles the plan, the set up, and finally, the sting. That's all I am going to tell you : the  real fun is in watching the story unfold !
Billie: Who told you this guy was in here?
Lieutenant Snyder: Nobody. I just know what kind of woman he likes. Going to check all the joy houses till I find him.
Billie: Oh, well maybe I could help you, if you tell me his name.
Lieutenant Snyder: I doubt it. Which way are the rooms?
Billie: Right through there. But I wouldn't go in there if I were you.
Lieutenant Snyder: What you are going to do, call the cops?
Billie: I don't have to. You'd be busting in on the Chief of Police just up the hall.

Floyd: Doyle, I KNOW I gave him four THREES. He had to make a SWITCH. We can't let him get away with that.
Lonnegan: What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?

I’ll say this : this is just plain quality from beginning to and, with many twists and turns that leave the viewer speechless and  make this movie one of the best classics I have seen… so far. The whole plot of the movie is excellent, and the witty, smart, and sometimes funny dialogues only make it better.

Kid Twist: Now how do you want to work this? Flat rate or percentage?
Benny Garfield: Who's the mark?
Kid Twist: Doyle Lonnegan.
Benny Garfield: Flat rate.

I was going from surprise to surprise, and loved it. My own partner in crime had seen it before and was a bit frustrated with me at times : I got lucky a couple of times and guessed. Still, a couple of twists left me speechless.
Some things just go / fit together : salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, butter and jam, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They were excellent together in Butch Cassidy &the Sundance Kid ; they are still magnificent in The Sting. Although I felt the bond between them was tighter in Butch, but it’s likely because there they played guys who had been friends for years, whereas in The Sting, they have just met each other. 
Redford is the young, carefree conman, who just wants to avenge his dead friend, and Newman plays the role of a mentor, and teaching him the tricks that will make the big con successfull. He is wise and on several occasions protects Redford… from himself and from others. He oozes cool and class and, in the movie, he simply shines.

Henry Gondorff: You have to keep this con even after you take his money. He can't know you took him.

One more comment on Robert Shaw, who plays Lonnegan, and impersonates a perfect villain, that we love to hate. His recurring, menacing « You follow? » besomes his trademark. We do not know much about hima part from :
He's an Irishman who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and doesn't chase dames. He's a grand knight in the Knights of Columbus, and he only goes out to play faro. Sometimes plays 15 or 20 hours at a time, just him against the house.[…] The croupier at Gilman's says he never plays anything he can't win. […] Likes to be seen with fighters sometimes, but he doesn't go to the fights or bet on 'em. […] Just poker. And he cheats. Pretty good at it, too.

Finally, some additional information, not very useful, but I always find it fun :

- Many characters drink Schlitz beer in the film. Schlitz was the largest beer company in the world during the 1930s.
- When Lonnegan first walks into "The Operation", over the P.A. you can hear one of the horses running is called Steve McQueen !!!

All in all, it is a great story, with excellent background music, and good settings that create a feel of the US in the 1930s. The times passes quickly, because it is an effortless, breezy, well paced film with no dull moments.

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