Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The Sting" is entertaining thing

Cleveland Press December 26, 1973

"The Sting" is playing here . Melodrama; adults, teens. In the cast are Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Ray Walston, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan. Running time: 129 minutes

As slick as the confidence game which is its subject, "The Sting" is a movie to relish and enjoy. This is sheer entertainment, artfully made but without self conscious artiness. It is a picture put together by craftsmen who bring to it all their skills with only one purpose-entertainment.

Con men are always colorful subject for a drama but "The Sting" differs from most in being exceedingly bitter and in pulling the big con on its audience, not once, but several times.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are re-teamed with director George Roy Hill, the same trio that made "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

"The Sting" is another period piece, this time set in 1936 in Illinois. Robert Redford is a small-time drifter operating with a couple of other guys. They are con men of a lower order, pulling a switch on suckers with a wallet filled with phony money in order to take the pigeon's own well-stuffed wallet.

They pull the switch on a runner for the mob. One partner is killed and Redford starts running to escape both the mob and a detective who is on the mob's payroll

He heads for Chicago and looks up Paul Newman, the king of the big-con, now in semi-retirement because of a little trouble with the federal men. Redford wants to learn the big time. He also wants to out-swindle the head of the mob.

While Newman isn't that impressed with his would-be protege the notion of pulling off a big one intrigues him.

They round up a bunch of old timers, great con artists all and these are played by a wonderful bunch of actors -- Ray Walston, John Heffernan, Dana Elcar and Jack Kehoe.

Since con-men are actors its a case of actors playing actors and doing it with relish.

Robert Shaw is sinister as the mobster who is the mark for this operation. There is a wonderful sequence where, in the course of setting him up, Newman out-chests him in a poker game aboard a train.

The plotting is elaborate and fun and it is full of surprises. The final twist is the biggest surprise of all and a little unfair, really, since the audience has been let in on all of the other scheming. But that's a small matter. When it happens it comes as quite a jolt.

The picture has been given a wonderful flavor that goes beyond meticulous costuming (pin stripes, broad felt hats) and perfect period setting. It achieves the looks of a '30's movie with its wipes and iris fades.

The background music is a blend of Scott Joplin rags and, though they were written earlier, they were popular in that period.

The makers have also given the picture an old Saturday Evening Post feel, not only with the title drawings but with Post-type drawings inserted a half-dozen times as chapter headings through the film.

Newman, Redford and company play this with flair as well as skill. Confidence men are the craftsmen of crooks and this cast does them justice.