Paul Newman and Robert Redford execute the perfect long con in George Roy Hill’s 1973 caper.
Nothing to do with the boring musician of the same name, The Sting reunites the cinematic triangle that formed the fantastic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both films have a classic sensibility, with great attention to detail in the sets, style and costumes.
Set in 1936, The Sting plays like an old movie and harks back to classical Hollywood. The title cards, sharp suits and awesome hats offer an irresistible picture of 1930s America, while the ragtime soundtrack reignited interest in Scott Joplin’s music.
A good grifter movie rests on its plot, and The Sting is as satisfying as its big con. The plot twists, card games and foot chases are exciting, not to mention the brilliant character names like Twist, Horse Face Lee and Suitcase Murphy.
The cast or “players” are a joy to watch, including a moustachioed Paul Newman, a villainous Robert Shaw and a feckless Charles Durning. But best of all is Robert Redford as the infinitely loveable rogue, looking like a sexy Owen Wilson.
The Sting picked up seven Oscars, including Best Writing for David S. Ward’s screenplay, Best Director and even Best Picture. Mark Kermode recently used the movie as an example of the Academy “getting it wrong”, and The Exorcist is certainly the better film. But with its wonderfully old-fashioned design, classy execution and dashing co-stars, The Sting is the ultimate grifter picture.