The Sting is a classic caper for the modern age. It’s the only heist film and the first movie with a female producer to win Best Picture. Another rare distinction is the fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Motion Picture in either Golden Globe category. The Exorcist and American Graffiti deserved their wins, but The Sting is one of the more underrated winners. The Sting is notable for being sandwiched between both Godfather films. Though the former couldn’t be more different. David S. Ward won Best Original Screenplay with inspiration from real life con artists.
The Sting harkens back to old timey grifting with snappy Best Original Score winning ragtime music, Best Art Direction winning Saturday Evening Post inspired 1930’s title cards, Best Costume Design winning period clothing, dissolves that won Best Film Editing, and a square aspect ratio. All that’s missing is a sepia tone. The Sting plays the long game by carefully establishing every aspect of a big con. Starting with the players that reunite the team from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. George Roy Hill won Best Director, Robert Redford was nominated for Best Actor, and Paul Newman saved his career after several flops.
Redford and Newman continue to work well off each other, but they’re not exactly the duo they were before. Hooker is a small time grifter who works with the older African American Luther Coleman before he’s bumped off. James Earl Jones’ father Robert Earl Jones makes an impression in his brief time on screen. Hooker avenges his fallen partner with the help of aging big time grifter Gondorff who helps him swindle large sums of money out of Irish mob boss Lonnegan. Robert Shaw plays the kind of mark you want to see get conned. They assemble a large team of grifters who set up a high stakes poker game and construct an elaborate horse race that does the trick. Until the FBI and several mysterious assailants get involved. Though I’m not always able to follow movie heists, I was genuinely shocked by all the twists. The Sting is a job well done.