#68. The Sting (1973)
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: David S. Ward
Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
My first experience with George Roy Hill’s zany The Sting came just this past year on the big screen – when the credits rolled and walked out of the theater, I was giddy and wholly satisfied. The Paul Newman – Robert Redford starring film hit all the right marks dramatically and comedically, drawing the audience in with a compelling script and some terrific performances. When the film’s unexpected ending finally arrived, I was absolutely floored – The Sting, a film about deception, had swindled its viewer. The Best Picture winning film sees young con artist Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) getting in way over his head and ripping off the wrong people. His unintentional actions anger kingpin Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), who seeks to have the mysterious young con artist killed at any expense. Hooker decides to seek refuge with famed con-man Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), and the two men devise an elaborate plan to pull off the ultimate con on Chicago’s most dangerous man, Doyle Lonnegan. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1974, picking up statues for Best Picture, Best Director (George Roy Hill), Best Original Screenplay (David S. Ward), and Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch). David S. Ward’s screenplay for the film is brilliant in every way, using scenes of action and suspense constantly keeping viewers guessing, and employing comedic scenes to further the relationships between the cast of characters. Each of our three main characters are believable and fully realized, all of whom have their own motives and reasons for being involved in the dangerous world of conning. Ward’s build-up of The Sting’s long con is perfect in its pacing – even leading viewers on the wrong path on some instances. Director George Roy Hill matches the pacing of the screenplay with an often frantic pace, setting many scenes to the music of ragtime pianist Scott Joplin – most famously his endearing “The Entertainer”. Even with a great script and some highly energetic direction, The Sting would be nothing without the terrific chemistry between actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The two legendary actors play off each other in a way that few cinematic pairings can match, resulting in more than a few memorable dramatic and comedic moments. The performance of Robert Shaw as the villainous Doyle Lonnegan is my personal favorite aspect of The Sting – he steals the show with a scenery chewing, occasionally over-the-top performance, but Lonnegan never feels like a joke. Despite seeming larger than life in almost every way, Shaw’s Doyle Lonnegan still manages to be menacing and threatening. The Sting is an incredibly well-written and acted film, resulting in the most fun I had in a theater in 2016.