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THE STING (1973)

When ambitious young grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) tracks down seasoned flim-flammer Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) in 1930s Chicago, they hatch an audacious and dangerous plan to rip off homicidal racketeer Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) using a phony OTB racetrack scam. In addition to winning seven Academy Awards, including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Directing (George Roy Hill) and Best Original Screenplay (David S. Ward), The Sting brought about a popular revival of ragtime music in general, and Scott Joplin in particular..

Top drawer cast includes: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, and Dana Elcar.

Ten Oscar nominations, seven wins (Best Director, Best Picture, Writing, Art Direction, Music, Costume Design, and Editing).

Lightning strikes again as Director, George Roy Hill, reunites with stars, Redford and Newman, from "Butch Cassidy", in a classic period piece.

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The story opens in an illegal gambling headquarters in Joliet, IL, where the guy in charge is giving a numbers runner the week's ill gotten gains to transport to headquarters in Chicago. The money was late because of interference from the law. The numbers runner Mattola (James Sloyan), on his way to the train station runs into an orchestrated con game in the alley, involving three grifters, Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones), Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), and Joe Erie (Jack Kehoe). Hooker does the old reliable money pouch switch, and winds up with thousands of dollars, which is split three ways. Two of the three grifters, Hooker & Luther, are identified by name only and scheduled to be terminated on orders by Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), a cold-hearted crime boss who doesn't like grifters who steal from his operations.

When Luther Coleman is hunted down and killed by 2 thugs sent by the crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan, these two 1930's Chicago con-men, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), come together and come up with an elaborate plan to "sting" this nasty New York hood, who brutally had their mutual friend Luther killed. The clever scam, involves a phony race track betting parlor. Many others that Gondorff has worked with before are called in to participate, as well as a few new faces.

Henry Gondorff enters into Doyle's poker game that he enjoys routinely on his train rides from Chicago to Joliet. Gondorff infuriates Doyle on several levels. After this infuriating poker game, Hooker supposedly comes by to collect Gondorff's winnings. He offers Doyle a way to get back at Gondorff, by shutting down his betting parlor. Hooker says that he knows someone in The Western Union Office that supposedly gets the racing results a bit earlier, allowing one to bet on horses that have already won, in such illegal betting parlors run by the likes of Henry Gondorff.

The added complications are that not only is a Doyle -sent hit man, Solino, after Hooker, but the law, represented by a sleazy and corrupt bunko detective, Lieutenant William Snyder (Charles Durning) is really interested in nailing Johnny Hooker. Durning is described as "a masterpiece of dimwitted malevolence."

So, Henry and Johnny have to find clever ways around such people, tying up all the loose ends that complicate their plans to pull this grand scam.

"The Sting" is thoroughly engaging entertainment, and was nominated for 10 Oscars, won 7, including Best Picture and Best Director. It is a classic because of the great chemistry between the stars, a clever script, excellent recreations of period locations and fashions, a terrific supporting cast and the talented direction of George Roy Hill, who had worked with Newman and Redford in the big hit, `Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid'.

A third Oscar went to Marvin Hamlisch, for his catchy musical score, that features catchy arrangements by Marvin Hamlisch, of Scott Joplin's timeless ragtime music. The film's great music really fits The action. Once you've heard The theme you'll never forget it!

The excellent screenplay, by David S. Ward, which won The Oscar, keeps you guessing all the way to the end. The film's excellent, well-paced, comedic script is full of clever twists and turns, that keeps the audience and characters wondering what is going to happen next.

The film is presented in chapter form, in the style used in the film, "Babe." One such chapter is called, "The Hook," which is a favorite scene. To get Lonnegan interested in taking the bait, Henry goes into a poker card game with Lonnegan on the train, which humorously starts the swindle game plan going. Gondorff does everything, says everything he can to annoy the mobster, topping it all off by cheating better than Doyle. The mobster knows that Henry cheated better than he did, but can't outright prove it.

Newman and Redford play off each other perfectly. The fact that they had worked together before, and were friends in real life, certainly helped things along. Another favorite scene is Redford's first encounter with Newman. Newman is asleep on the floor next to his bed, snoring, his nose smashed into the wall. In an attempt to bring Newman out of his drunken stupor, he's stuck in a bathtub and drenched. Later, Newman sticks his face into a sink filled with ice, to complete the wakeup process. Newman's wakeup routine is an undignified and hilarious way to bring his character into the movie.

The rest of the cast is uniformly great, as all get into the spirit of the script, under the gifted direction of Hill.

Robert Shaw is in fine form as the villainous Doyle Lonnegan, a nasty, greedy, merciless man who is in love with his own power, and definitely needs to be taken to the cleaners, as his just reward for his awful behavior. The major concern of our heroes is the realization that He must not realize that he has been taken, or he would hire hitmen to take out our heroes.

Ray Walston, as J.J. Singleton, does a marvelous job as the fake announcer of the horse races that Lonnegan bets on, and believes are real.

Character actor, Charles Durning, as Lieutenant William Snyder is convincing as a man of dubious nature, on a mission to uncover the illegal doings afoot.

Eileen Brennan distinguishes herself in her cool character, Billie.

If you enjoyed THE STING, you may like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, THE COLOR OF MONEY, JACKIE BROWN, MAVERICK, PAPER MOON, A PIECE OF THE ACTION, and SNEAKERS.

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