The film that ruled the roost in 1973 picking up 7 academy awards (including the converted best picture), there is little that can be said about 'The Sting' that hasn't already been discussed. A great example of Hollywood at its finest the film, now over 30years old, remains as fresh today as it was back then and serves as a timely reminder of the halcyon glory days of seventies cinema. After missing the target with their original release of this classic with scant extras and a 4:3 transfer, Universal make amends with their Legacy Series release, which finally gives the film a presentation fitting for one of the landmarks of American popular cinema. The setting is Chicago in the mid 1930's. A talented grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) pulls off the biggest con of his life, netting thousands from a man on the street. What he fails to realise is that he's just stole from a courier for the notorious mobster Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Lonnegan gets Hooker's business partner killed for his part in the con, and Johnny is forced to run for his life. He meets up with Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), the best confidence trickster in the business. Along with an assembled team of the most capable grifters around, the pair set out to gain revenge by playing Lonnegan at his own game, using a counterfeit betting shop to formulate an elaborate racehorse sting to bankrupt the corrupt financier. Of course things don't always go to plan, one major problem being the presence of slimy police Lieutenant William Snyder, who will stop at nothing to bring Hooker down. The Sting is an absolute joy from beginning to end. This breezy depression-era caper is so flat out enjoyable it should transcend any limitation of genre or age and appeal to everyone. The notion that lightening never strikes twice is blown to pieces here, as the film marked the second collaboration of director George Roy Hill, and both Newman and Redford. Their first film together was the superb 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', a magnificent western adventure that cleaned up at the box-office. 'The Sting' however manages to top even that, being both monetarily more successful and also a more accomplished and entertaining film overall. The movie captures two of Hollywood's most iconic stars at the height of their powers, and combines it with a director at the top of his game. It is without question Hill's crowning achievement and I wouldn't be surprised if it figured at the top of messrs. Redford and Newman's CV's as well. The key to The Sting is that the movie succeeds on so many levels. There isn't a misplaced performance in the film. Newman and Redford continue the chemistry that carried them through 'Sundance', Robert Shaw is memorably villainous as Lonnegan, and the supporting cast including Charles Durning, Ray Walston and Harold Gould go about their duties admirably. David S. Ward's script is a masterwork, labyrinthine and complex yet beautifully paced and crafted, there's barely a second to draw breath over the film's considerable running time. Even if it is possible to second guess the double and triple-crosses on offer, the sheer tempo and momentum generated by the movie carries the viewer along regardless. Likewise his harnessing of good natured escapism without losing the tension of a good crime caper is expertly judged. Visually the film is an absolute treat. The attention to detail is commendably and the exaggerated period set design and costume is an opulent delight. Scott Joplin's timeless piano rags are judged to perfection, and work seamlessly with the rest of the score to create a wonderful period ambiance. George Roy Hill offers a stable and experienced hand in the director's chair, and his assured touch ensures that all the disparate facets knit together seamlessly in a glorious whole. It is usually with trepidation that the words 'they don't make them like that any more' are uttered. But this time believe it, for they really don't at all.
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