Oscars Challenge #42: The Sting (1973) Movie Review
In the 45th Academy Awards, the Best Picture Winner, The Godfather, was one of the most monumental films ever created. Its sequel won the 47th Academy Awards. Two mammoth movies won the prestigious award in three years, and it will be more difficult if your film is sandwiched between these two giants.
The Sting may have won between the two greats, but it still lives up to their standards.
Set during The Great Depression, Johnny Hooker, a grifter, cons large amounts of cash from a victim with the aid of his partner Luther and Joe. Luther retires and tells Hooker to look for his friend, Henry Gondorff, in Chicago to learn about the big con. A corrupt police officer, William Snyder, talks with Hooker about a known crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan involvement. He also demands a part of his cut, but Hooker has already spent his earnings in the casino. He tricked Snyder by paying him counterfeit bills. Lonnegan's men kill Luther, and Hooker flees to Chicago.
Hooker finds Henry Gondorff and asks him for his help in taking Lonnegan. He recruits a core team of cons which will help them outwit Lonnegan. They plan to establish a fake betting parlor that will let their target bet large amounts of money. First, Gondorff out-cheats Lonnegan in a card game. Hooker tries to convince Lonnegan that he is about to take down Gondorff. He mentions that he has an insider that will let him win in bets in a horse race.
Snyder tracks down Hooker in Chicago but gets stopped when an FBI Agent asks for his help to arrest Gondorff using Hooker. Lonnegan, unaware that Hooker is in disguise, sends his best assassin to tail him.
Lonnegan starts betting at the fake betting parlor to gain revenge on Gondorff. Then, Hooker gets arrested by Snyder, who brings him to the FBI Agent. He forces him to betray Gondorff by threatening him.
The night before the Sting, Hooker sleeps with a waitress who is revealed to be Lonnegan's hired killer. A hired agent by Gondorff killed the woman, and the operation continued.
At the betting parlor, Lonnegan bets $5000,000 to a hose named Lucky Dan. The horse came in second, and he demanded his money back. Snyder and several police stormed in and confronted Gondorff. Lonnegan lets Hooker go but gets shot by Gondorff. He also gets hit by the police before Snyder escorts Lonnegan out of the parlor. With the two outside, it is revealed that everything that transpired is staged. Gondorff offers Hooker his share of the money, but he doesn't take it, and the two walk away.
It must have been hard to follow up on the achievements and good reviews received by The Godfather, but I think this film did its best and continued its legacy.
I like the structure of the story. It starts with introducing the characters, with them being the typical con artists, and in the middle, you get sucked into the plot that you forget that everything is just brilliantly faked. I didn't expect the plot twist at the end because I got so into the story that I lost track of the characters' roles. It aged remarkably well for a con movie that is almost half a century old.
Its story is funny, with a little twist of drama and action in between. Almost everything about this film is enjoyable because it keeps you guessing until you get lost in the rollercoaster characters in the movie.
Both Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who played the two main characters, delivered. I don't know if they were the perfect duo during the 70s, but they did pretty well in their respective roles. The chemistry between the two shows brilliantly well in the film. Even the supporting cast who played the con artists were terrific, and they did fool not only the target but also the audiences.
I am unsure if this is the best con movie of all time, but it certainly lives up to the expectation. I am not familiar with these kinds of films because you can basically add a bunch of big-shot actors and find someone who will play the rich guy, then fool him. Still, I am impressed with The Sting because it also shows emotions like grief, anger, anxiety, revenge, etc.
If you are like me, who only knows a few con movies, specifically in the 2000s, like Inception, Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, Now You See Me, etc., it's a nice change to learn somehow something that the genre exists even in the 70s. It might not have been the most popular thing to watch back then, but it is still nice to know something new once in a while.
Overall, I like the movie. It might not be my favorite genre, but I still like how it is neatly structured. Plus, it is very enjoyable.
A solid 4 out of 5 stars.