Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Eleven, Part Two – ‘The Sting’ (1973)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. There has been a couple of disagreements, lot’s of mutual appreciation and only one outright argument… so far.

Fred’s choice for Yasser this week is a deprssion-era-set crime caper movie starring two of the biggest stars of the 70s. Read on to see if Yasser liked it…

You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Fred: Okay mate. My next choice is ‘The Sting

Yasser: I’ll start with the usual and ask why did you choose it?

FS: First and foremost, I think the story is brilliant. It’s got a great script and the whole plot is very clever. Revenge can be a cliché and maybe someone coming to this new would watch it and think ‘I’ve seen this all before‘, but in 1973 it was new.

‘The Sting’
1973 – USA
Director: George Roy Hill
Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Ray Walston, Charles Durning

FS: Like ‘Chinatown‘, the period setting and detail is great. Ironically the music is the one period thing they got wrong, but you can forgive it as it’s wonderful.

YA: I didn’t like the music. It stood out like a sore thumb sometimes, but it didn’t ruin the film. Luckily the cat-food tune was most prominent in the opening credits

FS: The cat-food tune! You are winding me up!

YA: (laughs) Is there anything else?

FS: Yes. A lot of my choices so far have hinged (acting-wise) on one powerhouse central performance – Sjostrom, Landau, Nicholson, Belmondo. This film has three brilliant central performances from three of the eras most charismatic stars

YA: I don’t think Robert Shaw was as charismatic as Redford or Newman

FS: No, but that is like saying ‘he’s not as clever as Issac Newton or Copernicus

YA: He was still good. Bit of a dodgy Irish accent, but he was very much the hard man he needed to be

FS: (laughs) He made a career playing hard men. The bad guy in ‘The Sting’ needed to be intimidating of the film would have been less effective

YA: Brad Pitt reminds me a bit of Robert Redford

FS: I think that’s a bit insulting to Redford

YA: Hey, hey. I didn’t say he is as talented. they look very similar and Pitt in ‘Ocean’s Eleven‘ is similar to Redford in ‘The Sting’

FS: Did he impress you as Johnny Hooker?

YA: I think it’s the first role I’ve seen him in where he isn’t playing a completely serious role

FS: You haven’t seen many of his early romantic comedies then?

YA: I’ve seen him as the Sundance Kid opposite Newman’s Butch Cassidy, ‘Out of Africa‘, some of his more recent movies like ‘Spy Game‘…

FS: ‘Sneakers‘?

YA: Not seen that, though I’ve been told it’s good

FS: One of the most underrated movies of the 90s in my opinion

YA: I think my favourite Redford film is ‘Indecent Proposal

FS: … you are joking… tell me that’s not true…

YA: (laughs) It’s not true. I do like winding you up

FS: (laughs) Bastard! Fucking hell! (laughs) Did you like him a lighter role?

YA: Yeah! It was good to see him young and having a laugh.

FS: What about Paul Newman? What did you think of his performance?

YA: I’d liked to have seen more of him. I know it was key that he was a bit more in the background for the plot, but he wasn’t used enough, no

FS: That’s true to an extent. He was the bigger star, hence the higher billing, but Redford is really the film’s focus. It’s his revenge after all

YA: Rightly so too, because Redford shows off his acting chops in this without being in a serious role

FS: He’s really good. I think he’s a bit underrated as an actor sometimes because of his looks, a problem that never affected Newman for some reason

YA: I keep going back to ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ because ‘The Sting’ is similar in so many ways

FS: I like ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, but I don’t think it can compare to ‘The Sting’. They are both good caper movies…

YA: Yes

FS: …charismatic stars…

YA: …with a mean, vindictive antagonist.

FS: Yes

YA: How does it not compare?

FS: ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ lets itself down with overly broad supporting characters who are added merely for laughs. If they had played it straight it could have been a really brilliant film. ‘The Sting’, despite being fairly light, doesn’t have any comic turns in it. You are never sure which way the ending is going to go, whereas you know ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ are going to get away with it

YA: True, but I still think the way the plot unfolds is similar. I liked it a lot, which bodes well for ‘The Sting’. I did feel like I’d seen it all before, but chronologically ‘The Sting’ was the original

YA: Newman was ace

FS: Yes, he was

YA: Not as good as in ‘The Hustler

FS: ‘The Hustler’ is a movie blind-spot for me. I can’t see what all the fuss is about. As Henry Gondorff, though, he’s perfect. Along with ‘Cool Hand Luke‘ it’s my favourite Paul Newman role

YA: Better than Butch?

FS: I love ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid‘ but I find ‘The Sting’ more interesting and engaging

YA: I like the relationship better in ‘Butch Cassidy…’. It’s more like they’re brothers and the bounce off each other more. Get me?

FS: Yeah. ‘The Sting’ is more pupil and teacher

YA: Gondorff was a bit of a broken man before Hooker encounters him. Only when he relishes the chance to get back into the game does Gondorff encounter his former, more natural self

FS: He probably sees himself in Hooker

YA: I was sad to see Luther (Robert Earl Jones) leave the story so early, but Gondorff wouldn’t have been necessary if he’d stuck around

YA: The script was really clever, Fredders. It wasn’t complicated, like ‘Chinatown’ or ‘Inception‘. It flowed naturally

FS: It had a few twists but it kept them up its sleeve until absolutely necessary

YA: Yeah it was natural and simple. The setting was good. it captured the depression era quite well. Bright at times, but with more of a gritty street backdrop which captured the tone of the time

FS: Gritty enough to be realistic without depressing the movie. Was there any bad things about it?

YA: Sorry to say Dimitra Arliss was not a good choice

FS: Too old? Or just a bad actress?

YA: She was too old and pretty shoddy. The chemistry with Redford wasn’t there

FS: She was okay. I think it’s good they didn’t pick a standard Hollywood beauty, but she was nothing special, acting-wise. Anything else?

YA: I would have loved Lonnergan (Shaw) to be more questioning, more astute. He let his ego get in the way.

FS: You think he got sucked along too easily?

YA: No, but he should have been more threatening. The idea there was an attempt to con him didn’t seem to occur to him, band back on the train he didn’t seem the type of man that doesn’t question everything and everyone

FS: Before you sum up, is there anything else you wish to ask me?

YA: It’s getting closer to the crunch so I’d like you to explain a bit more about why this made the list and why it’s as high as number 15

FS: Okay – fair enough. Aside from what I’ve already said about the three leading actors and the clever plot, I think it’s the best of the crime caper movies that were so popular in the 1960s and 70s and I think that’s probably due to the fact it took a more serious tone than many of the others, which were normally out-and-out comedies. With ‘Touch of Evil‘ you saw one side of the crime genre – a serious, bleak side. Here you get the lighter side and perhaps that makes it an easier film to like

YA: Okay, I get that…

FS: I also think it’s easy to leave loose ends in this type of film, but ‘The Sting’ doesn’t do that. I remember the first time I watched it I was guessing right up until the end what was going to happen and, even though I was in the flat on my own, I actually applauded

YA: (laughs)

FS: Ultimately, it entertains me more that the films I’ve chosen so far. Simple as that

YA: So, to sum up, it was very engaging from the start, then had a little blip before Newman was introduced. He is washed up, but then agrees to take on the con and he’s resurgent, bold, charming and charismatic. Shaw arrives as a menacing antagonist, so it’s unfortunate that he becomes more anxious and naive towards the end

FS: I see

YA: It’s a real underdog story. It’s revenge-driven and you can forget that as the plot unfolds quite casually. The screenplay is well done with good direction, but the best thing by a mile was Robert Redford. It’s possibly the best performance of his I’ve ever seen. He delivered in every scene, especially when paired with Newman as the complimented one another with energy and charm. It’s hard to draw on the negatives, the music and Arliss aside, because the film is just that damn good

FS: This is getting better and better

YA: Not as good as ‘Back to the Future‘, but better than ‘Chinatown’, it’s a well-deserved 9/10.

‘Film Club’ will return in two week’s time, and the world tour continues with ’13 Assassins’ from Japan and ‘Cinema Paradiso’ from Italy

2 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Eleven, Part Two – ‘The Sting’ (1973)

    […] The Sting […]

    […] The I watched ‘The Sting‘… I don’t know what it is about him, but you are drawn to […]

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