46. The Sting (1974)

Title: The Sting

Release Date: 25 December, 1973

Oscar Ceremony: 2 April, 1974

Director: George Roy Hill

Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw


Nominees: American Graffiti, Cries and Whispers, The Exorcist, A Touch of Class


“Glad to meet you, kid. You’re a real horse’s ass.” – Henry Gondorff

Last week, I watched The Godfather. I considered watching the sequel right away, but then I decided to stay true to my project and follow the chronological order of the winners. As a result, here I am watching and reviewing The Sting as a little break from the saga. It’s funny because when I told my mom and Julian’s mom (who also happen to be my most faithful readers) about my next movie, I said I was going to watch a random movie separating The Godfather I and II. Julian’s mom laughed at me for calling it random, and my mom claimed I had watched it with her a few times (not true). I had honestly never even heard of it, but apparently I should have! Shame on me.

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The Sting is essentially about con artists planning a great scheme to get back at a crime boss. It’s set in Chicago, 1936 and starts with Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), a young con man getting through life by scamming people with his two partners, Luther Coleman and Joe Erie. One day, they unknowingly scam a man delivering money for a dangerous criminal banker, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Long story short, Lonnegan’s men end up murdering Luther Coleman, which puts Johnny Hooker’s life in danger. He escapes to Chicago, where he meets up with one of Coleman’s old connections, the once-great and famous Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman). Hooker asks Gondorff if he can help him put together a group of conmen to scam Lonnegan, and that’s when things start to get interesting.

While the subject of the movie is serious, the overall tone is very light and comedic. The soundtrack is mainly comprised of melodies dating back to the early 1900s, including “The Entertainer.” Actually, a few segments often feel like an homage to the silent movie era, so you know that no matter what’s happening, there’s a looming nostalgic and silly sentiment in the background. The film is also divided into various phases that are presented to us with title images, similarly to chapters in a book. I realize I might not be explaining myself properly, so here’s an example:

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Yes, there’s a mystery, yes, we’re dealing with unlawful people, yes, there are unfortunate circumstances, but in the end we find ourselves glued to the screen, cheering on for the resolution. It’s a thrill to watch such an elaborate scheme play out. It also makes you realize that some people really have nothing better to do with their lives.

On another note, Paul Newman and Robert Redford make quite a duo. It’s also very convenient that they’re both ridiculously charming and good-looking. It was a very interesting viewing experience for me, since I don’t think I’ve actually seen either of them in a movie before. One thing that really struck me was how much Robert Redford looks like Brad Pitt. I swear to God, it’s like someone decided to start a cloning experiment and that’s how Brad Pitt was born. However, I always found that Brad Pitt was attractive in a dumb kind of way, whereas Robert Redford has a bit more class. What do you think?

I don’t know if I picked the right pictures, but the thing is, it’s not just the appearance. Many people can look alike if you pick the right photographs and pin them side by side, but when it comes to these two, it’s their mannerisms as well. You really have to watch some of their movies to get what I mean. Anyways, I’m always fascinated by this type of doppelgänger phenomenon.

As for Paul Newman, he’s more than just a blue-eyed ladies’ man. In this movie in particular, he is sly, subtle, and effortlessly witty. He is the personification of street class and he really knows how to pull off a moustache. Together, Redford and Newman are the glue that holds The Sting together; the movie deserves at least an extra star for having cast this incomparable duo. When I have the time, I’ll have to watch more of their movies, namely Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which they both starred. Other suggestions are equally welcome!

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