Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Sting

The Sting; Crime comedy, USA, 1973; D: George Roy Hill, S: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan

1930's. Small time crook Johnny and his Black friend Luther use a trick to steal money from some gangster, but he actually works for the notorious mobster Doyle and wants revenge. Johnny pays 2.000 $ to policeman Sneider for protection, but the gangsters still kill Luther. Johnny now wants to revenge on them and thanks to the legendary Henry manages to round up a crew that organizes a bluff: Henry wins in a poker game with Doyle who starts to hate him and thus decides to destroy his (fake) horse racing club. Johnny "helps" him therein by presenting himself as employee Kelly who can find out when any given horse will win. Thus Doyle bets 500.000 $ on one horse, loses and even gets arrested by the police, while Henry and Johnny act as if they killed each other and run away.

The Newman-Redford-Roy Hill trio once again teamed up after their comedy hit "Butch Cassidy" and once again crafted a smash hit both with the audience and the critics, the smart double-crossing heist comedy "Sting" that surprisingly won 7 Oscars (including best picture and director) and one nomination for a Golden Globe (best screenplay). After the excellent music in the opening credits, the story attracts immediately with a brilliant trick of the small time protagonists Johnny and Luther: Luther acts as if he is injured on the street and thus gives some gangster who was passing by his money to hand it over for him, but then Johnny meddles in and shows the naive gangster how to hide the money by taking his wallet and placing it in a wrap and then under his pants - but when he "returns" his wrap and the happy gangster runs away, it turns out Johnny actually kept his wallet and returned him a fake wrap full of junk! The trick is genius and in the following charade revolving around a fake horse racing club the screenplay offered such multi layered and rare sharpness that it even sets up a whole string of fake characters and overshadows "Ocean's 11" with ease. But, alas, the story isn't so funny or brilliant as some claim it is, since it seems rather heavy handed at times and only based on one trick, which means that it's just a small notch weaker than "Cassidy".


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