Because I’m that type of person, I’m always slightly irked at the state of good flicks featuring male duos. We’ve been subjugated to drivel like From Paris With Love (my thoughts). I wasn’t too fond of I Love You Man, either, but perhaps I’m just tough to please. But when I think of male bonding, even though there’s no male alternative to things like Steel Magnolias (what would that be?) you can rarely go wrong with an classic duo – enter cinematic royalty in the form of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. I think Newman’s place in history is assured (he appears in another favourite of mine here), but Redford, especially as an actor is often ignored. He’s just one of those guys whose respected in the business by name, but still is never as respected as he ought to be. Sure, his name is synonymous with that era of classic cinema – but is Redford’s acting talent ever really as appreciated as they ought to be? For all the good films he’s acted in, the man has one Oscar nomination – for The Sting. Fortunately, the nomination is deserved.
The Sting is an intricate that depends on the setup as much as it does on the result. I’m always amazed that it manages to work as well as it does, considering the tentative ground it steps on. It depends on its substance as well as its style, and luckily, George Roy Hill knows quite well. The story follows Johnny Hooker (played by Redford). He’s a petty con artist, but when things go awry with a former partner he enlists the help of the apparently worn-out former con Henry Gondorff. With the help of Gondorff, Hooker attempts to pull of one of the greatest scam. Any other information will doubtlessly spoil the thrill of watching The Sting, and I wouldn’t want to rob anyone of that thrill. There’s always something special watching a classic for the first time, and with The Sting it’s even more especial. The final ten minutes of this tale reveals intricacies that work so well and result in a truly amazing experience.
The thing is, The Sting is often forgotten. As a Best Picture winner (they used to make some excellent choices, back then) it falls chronologically in the middle of the The Godfather and The Godfather II, so it’s often eviscerated from memory by those heavyweights. But I cherish The Sting much more than either of the two, perhaps even combined. It’s unseen by so many, and that’s the pity because it holds up as an excellent film and as a superb heist. I’m actually surprised that in the wake of the era of remakes plans haven’t been made to recreate it with Channing Tatum and Paul Walker. Not to disregard those actors ...but as modern as it feels watching it, The Sting is completely a film of its time. Few stars of our era – as talented as some are – could pull of the charm and skill necessary for this film. From Newman and Redford to a superlative supporting cast of Robert Shaw, Eileen Brennan, Charles Durning and company, the acting is exceptional, as is the direction, the writing, and the classic music. It’s often said, “they don’t make them like they used”. When they do, I think they’re talking about The Sting.