Oscar Review: The Sting (1973)
The Sting, set in 1930’s Chicago, follows the lives of two con-men – Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) – as they plan one of their biggest scores ever. When Hooker and his mentor, Luther, unknowingly steal from a courier for Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), a numbers racketeer, Luther get’s killed and Hooker is on the run in search of Luther’s old partner (Gondorff).
Finding Gondorff as a washed up drunk, Hooker convinces him to get back into the game for one last con against Lonnegan as payback for Luther’s murder. They gather up a gang of the best grifters in town with an elaborate series of twists and turns that are sure to part the rich man from his money.
From buying into Lonnegan’s moving poker game with money picked from his own pocket to setting up a dummy off-track betting parlor, Hooker and Gondorff play every angle possible to win big, all the while trying to steer clear of an abitious detective played by Charles Durning.
I’ve only seen The Sting twice and both times I’ve enjoyed the playfulness of the characters and the ingenuity of the various grifts the team pulls off. Though Marvin Hamlish won for best music based on Scott Joplin’s ragtime piano pieces – being the first to ever win the Oscar for all three music categories at the same awards – and though it certainly fits with the time period of the film, the music more often than not, for my taste, makes the transitions and more active sequences seem a little silly. It takes a little something away rather than adding to the mood.
All in all, though, The Sting is well-grounded in the first-rate performances of Redford and Newman and their chemistry on the screen. It’s lively, it’s fun, and it’s definitely worth a watch.