Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

The Sting

Cinema Monolith: 10/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!Film Reel
IMDb: 8.3/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ***½ out of 4

Released on December 25, 1973
Rated PG
129 minutes

Directed by George Roy Hill

Written by David S. Ward

Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, Dimitra Arliss, Robert Earl Jones, James J. Sloyan, Charles Dierkop, Lee Paul, Sally Kirkland, Arch Johnson

If seven Academy Award wins and a permanent spot on my Top 5 films list don’t convince you to give The Sting a look, then how about this: when my Dad first saw this movie in the theater, he enjoyed it so much he took me and my younger brother to see it during its re-release, knowing that even though we were kids (I was eleven, my brother was seven), we’d still appreciate it as much—and have as much fun with it—as he did. And he was right: my brother and I both thought it was great, and it’s remained a favorite of mine ever since.

Robert Redford and Paul Newman team up for the second time in this crime caper set in 1930s Chicago, where Joliet con man Redford and his partner trick an unsuspecting mark out of what they think will be pocket money; they soon discover the man was a numbers runner carrying the day’s take—all $11,000 of it—for a New York mob kingpin, played by Robert Shaw. Shaw doesn’t appreciate being swindled by two-bit grifters, and orders the pair eliminated. When the partner is killed, the revenge-minded Redford heads to Chicago, where he asks Newman’s experienced con artist for help in pulling a big con, a ‘sting’, on Shaw’s no-nonsense crime boss.

Everything, and I mean everything, blended together to beautiful perfection in this movie, from the opening old-time Universal logo right down to the final pinhole fadeout: acting, direction, story, locations, music, wardrobe, dialogue…it was all so smoothly harmonious, and resulted in a final product that couldn’t help but entertain from start to finish. Nothing in this movie was wasted; each scene and every moment meant something, or led you somewhere, and the pacing left no room for dead space. The run time somehow clocked in at 129 minutes, but it felt like half that…again, the mark of a well-made and thoroughly engaging film.

Director George Roy Hill did wonders with David S. Ward’s superbly-constructed script, filling the screen with period atmosphere and details that put you right in the middle of 1936 Chicago, and making it all seem completely authentic. The three leads—Redford, Newman, and Shaw—were of course outstanding, and played off each other so well, but their co-stars were equally impressive, bringing their characters to life in even the smallest of parts; I thought it was cool that even the bit players were given memorable lines to deliver. And let’s not forget the contribution of composer Marvin Hamlisch, who took Scott Joplin’s ragtime piano numbers and made them an integral part of the experience.

This is what filmmaking is all about, and it’s easy to see why it earned wins for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, among others. And with so many outstanding scenes, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I think I’d go with the card game on the 20th Century Limited…a terrific bit of work from Newman and Shaw. I could go on and on with my unabashed praise for this movie—for starters, it’s smart, it’s funny, and full of surprises you’ll never see coming—but I’ll try putting it all in a nutshell by saying this: The Sting is just flat-out damn good, and is not to be missed.  (10/10)

12 comments on “The Sting

  1. spreth1
    1/2/18

    I saw the movie in re-release as well, and I know this will shock you, but I saw it after reading the book – a book that I ordered from Scholastic America or whatever that program was called that we got books through school. It also has to be a Top 5 film of mine. I liked Shaw’s performance best, but all three leads were stellar, as were a few of the bit players, ya follow?

    • Todd B
      1/2/18

      Not only are you a cheat, you’re a gutless cheat as well! And I remember those Scholastic/Arrow book clubs…I bought a lot of football and baseball books through them while attending Westwood School. And cool that it’s a Top 5 favorite for you…alongside The Villain and Innerspace, right? And do you remember where you saw The Sting when it was re-released?

      • spreth1
        1/3/18

        Plaza Twin on Escondido Boulevard. I believe it was the last movie I ever attended with my mother and father.

      • Todd B
        1/3/18

        That’s where we saw it as well! I even remember where we sat: left side, towards the back. And the last movie I ever attended with my Mom and Dad was Platoon, in 1986.

  2. This is a film that brings joy with so many scenes. One of the best poker games ever filmed. Right Flanigan? Love the scene where they leave that office half painted… Lol. Oh boy. I might have to watch this asap. Great start on your run!

    • Todd B
      1/2/18

      Tough luck, Lonnehan! The poker scene, the office scene, and three or four dozen others…all were so great, I feel like watching it again tonight. I’m guessing you already own it, so get to it, stat!

  3. Dracula
    1/3/18

    Since it made your top 5 list I will have to watch it soon. Can’t remember the last time I saw it or much about the picture other than your critic. I imagine Jaws is on the list as well but what would the other 3 movies be? Also, will you be posting the top 5 movies for 2016 and 2017 in your upcoming free days from the reviews?

    • Todd B
      1/3/18

      You’ll see my Top 5 for 2016 on Friday, and my Top 3 Most Disappointing of 2016 at the end of the month. And since I still have a ton of 2017 movies to watch (I’ve only seen five so far), that list will have to wait ’til the very end of December.

      As for those other three favorites of all-time, you’ll just have to wait for them as well; that list will be posted sometime this year. Maybe sooner than later, now that I know you’re on the edge of your seat.

  4. A classic. Great memories. Wish I could upload an image of my Polish Movie poster of this – it’s in hot pink with a giant fly and very entertaining in completely different way than the film.

    • Todd B
      1/3/18

      You sent me an e-mail photo of that once…a very offbeat-looking poster (and it’s a bee or wasp, not a fly…The STING!) And don’t fret, I’ll upload the image right here:

  5. Kelly "LMD" Benefiel
    1/4/18

    I guess I better put this one on our list, I’ve never seen it!

    • Todd B
      1/4/18

      Damn, woman! I’ve got it on Blu-ray…we’ll make it a priority.

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 222

From the Monolith: 123

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
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