The Sting (1973)
Dir: George Roy Hill
This film paired up the duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford again, four years after ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, and this is by the same director. I possibly should have seen that first, though the storylines aren’t related, as far as I know.
Johnny Hooker (Redford) is a con man, working small marks and making small money, however one day he scores $11,000 with his partners, which prompts the eldest to announce he’s getting out of the game. However, their victim was linked to a crime boss, who then has the retiring friend killed. Hooker then goes to find Henry Gondorff (Newman) who will teach him how to pull off a ‘big con’ and take the murderous crime boss for all he can. There are twists, and double plays throughout, as the con men are pursued by a corrupt police Lieutenant (Charles Durning) and have to pull off ‘The Sting’ while still avoiding getting caught by both their mark and the authorities.
The film starts with very playful music, which continues almost throughout, and showed the kind of film it was early on. This is not a dark and seedy world presented, rather one in which the crimes are presented more like antics. However it still has a slight edge to it, with a couple of shootings, and the aforementioned friend being killed, so the stakes are set quite high and seriously, just the way the con men operate tends to lean towards the fun and light-hearted side.
This was very enjoyable, with great performances and clear rapport between the leads. It obviously has influenced many heist and con films since, some of which have been excellent and a gere I am particularly fond of, and some sadly that have tried to rip this sense of camaraderie and fun off to disastrously disappointing effect.