Sting, The (1973)

“I don’t know what to do with this guy, Henry: he’s an Irishman who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t chase dames.”

Sting Poster

Synopsis:
A small-time grifter (Robert Redford) asks for help from a more experienced con-man (Paul Newman) in seeking revenge when his partner (Robert Earl Jones) is murdered by a cold-blooded Irish mobster (Robert Shaw).

Genres:

Review:
George Roy Hill’s beloved con artist-revenge flick has held up remarkably well, and remains a clever, challenging delight even for those recently weaned on David Mamet’s intricately plotted House of Games (1987), The Spanish Prisoner (1997), and Heist (2000). While first-time viewers will likely be overwhelmed by the sheer number of plot twists and turns to keep track of (I confess to initial confusion myself), a second viewing helps to clear things up, and Hill’s creative team does such an impressive job recreating Depression-era Chicago that it’s easy on the eyes to sit through more than once. The lead actors are perfectly cast, with Robert Shaw particularly noteworthy in a performance far, far removed from his title role in The Luck of Ginger Coffey nearly ten years earlier, and Newman having fun with his role as a “seasoned” con-man. Only Dimitra Arliss — playing a worn-out waitress who has a one-night-stand with Redford — seems miscast; she looks old enough to be his mother.

P.S. The Sting earned an impressive seven Oscars in 1973, including awards for best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best musical score, best costume design, best set direction, and best editing. In his Alternate Oscars, however, Peary — while referring to it as “a great date movie and cheery commercial film”, and agreeing that it has a “slick and tricky script” — argues that it didn’t really deserve to win Best Picture of the year.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Redford as Johnny Hooker
    Sting Redford
  • Paul Newman as Gondorff
    Sting Newman
  • Robert Shaw as Lonnegan
    Sting Shaw
  • Robert Earl Jones as Luther Coleman
    Sting Earl Jones
  • Colorful depression-era sets and costumes
    Sting Sets
  • David S. Ward’s wonderfully dense and intricate “long-con” screenplay
    Sting Long-Con

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a multiple Oscar-winning film. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Sting, The (1973)”

  1. VERY MUCH A MUST!

    This flick plays with your head…in the most delightful ways imaginable. (Hard to believe I haven’t watched it since 1973!; but then, when you’re an ff, you don’t always have the time to go back. And there can be so much to go back to!)

    This is one of those instances in which I strongly feel the less said is better – just watch it!

    So just a few things:

    -seems to me a rare occasion in which the Academy got it right by handing a bunch of well-deserved Oscars to a top-notch piece of commercial entertainment that has class AND brains to spare. Certainly pleased that George Roy Hill took home the directing award – he did great work with everything and everybody.

    -the uniform period effect is astonishing; everything from the old Universal Pictures intro, to the Saturday Evening Post chapter titles, to the predominance of studio-bound sets, etc. Just a visual marvel.

    -I thought, at first, that the plot is complex but, actually, I don’t think it is; it’s complex in situation detail and richness of dialogue (thank God!), but the storyline is fairly simple (even if it does mess with your head).

    -the film was made for 5.5 million. Imagine: something on this scale for 5.5 million?!

    But enough: go get stung! 😉

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