The Sting (USA, 1973)

stingDirected by: George Roy Hill. Someone who loves Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as much as I do shouldn’t wait as long as I did to see the followup to that great team of George Roy Hill, Redford and Newman. Maybe I should clear the air by stating clearly that I do not think this movie is nearly as good as Butch Cassidy, and that frankly, this isn’t that controversial a statement to make, is it? We can take it as read that the former movie possessed a certain kind of quaint, rustic magic where The Sting tends more towards a more commercial, almost campy sensibility, which, at first glance, I’d attribute to its apparent emulation of the entertainments of the period: the presentational directness of early vaudeville and silent cinema. The introductory title cards are meant to convey that, perhaps the director’s wish to nod towards the success of Bonnie and Clyde‘s introduction (not to mention his own Butch Cassidy introductory sequence). The differences between that movie and this one have probably been written about many times before, and the two movies are like night and day between a perfectly acceptable, intriguing and memorable movie, versus a masterpiece of cinema. A good place to start, though (and perhaps a good place to end as well), is the cinematography, which I recently heard described as “TV movie” quality on a great podcast that I listen to. Put bluntly, this movie looks like shit, and it hurts the movie. There’s a lot going on in the directorial voice, the sensibility, the tone, the script and the characters which, overall, make it a far inferior movie to Butch Cassidy, but the most striking, and most unfortunate thing is how damn awful it looks. It seriously looks like a TV movie from the mid to late 70’s, and I personally find that to be a weakness. None of these negative picking points, though, mean that you shouldn’t see this movie. It’s a clockwork mechanism that sets the example for all sorts of heist/puzzle movies of today (up to and including stuff like Inception), and it’s truly one of the funnest movies to watch that I’ve seen in a good long time. It’s a crucial lesson to modern filmgoers, actually (and fucking modern filmmakers as well), that you can have a ton of fun at the movies, not pile the movie up with intellectual baggage or CGI distractions, and still have a cohesive, compelling, thrilling narrative. It’s a perfectly decent movie, a fucking miracle of a plot, pulled off with grace, heart, and intelligence, and it’s completely accessible to a wide audience. I fucking long for a return to something like this for modern film.

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4 responses to “The Sting (USA, 1973)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2013 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Prohibition [Miniseries] (USA, 2011) | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: Jeremiah Johnson (USA, 1972) | Offhand Reviews·

  4. Pingback: Torn Curtain (USA, 1966) | Offhand Reviews·

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