The plot must have been devilishly complex at the time. In more recent years we've had films like House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner that make The Sting's intricacies look like a story in a first-grader's textbook. It's the Depression, and Johnny Hooker (Redford) makes a living running quickie cons on the street. When he scams several thousand dollars off of a mob guy, the heat comes down from both the mafiosos looking for their money and the crooked cops, culminating in Hooker's partner getting killed and Hooker escaping the city for hopefully better climes.
Vowing revenge, he hooks up with Henry Gondorff (Newman), who promises to set up a huge con to extract as much money as possible from the head of the syndicate, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Together they devise an elaborate plan to get Lonnegan's cash, starting with a trainbound poker game and culminating in an intricate double-cross that revolves around a rigged horse race.
The Sting probably wouldn't work in today's world of simulcasts and internet betting, but seen as a paean to the way that crime used to be something lighthearted and even funny, it's a real hoot. Newman and Redford, teaming up again with director George Roy Hill shortly after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, manage to make every minute memorable. Only for the briefest moments does the film ramble -- such as Hooker's dalliance with a broken-down coffee shop waitress that looks twice his age. The rest is pure gold.
Supporting players like Shaw, Charles Durning (as the cop after Hooker), and a pile of character actors like Ray Walston in minor roles make the movie all the more memorable. And then there's "The Entertainer," the film's ubiquitous soundtrack song which runs any time there's a break in the nearly nonstop action. Often imitated, the film has (in my opinion) been bested in recent years by the work of David Mamet, but it's still one of the greatest capers known to man.
The new Legacy Series DVD includes a second disc of extras, the main feature of which is a retrospective from the principals about the making of the film.
Run time: 129 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 26th December 1973
Box Office Worldwide: $159.6M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 48 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 8.4 / 10
Director: George Roy Hill
Screenwriter: David S. Ward
Starring: Paul Newman as Henry Gondorff, Robert Redford as Johnny Hooker, Robert Shaw as Doyle Lonnegan, Charles Durning as Lt. Wm. Snyder, Ray Walston as J.J. Singleton, Eileen Brennan as Billie, Harold Gould as Kid Twist, John Heffernan as Eddie Niles, Dana Elcar as F.B.I. Agent Polk, Jack Kehoe as Erie Kid, Robert Earl Jones as Luther Coleman (as Robertearl Jones), James Sloyan as Mottola (as James J. Sloyan), Charles Dierkop as Floyd - Bodyguard, Lee Paul as Bodyguard, Sally Kirkland as Crystal, Avon Long as Benny Garfield, Arch Johnson as Combs, Ed Bakey as Granger, Brad Sullivan as Cole, John Quade as Riley, Dimitra Arliss as Loretta