Imagine “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid” if it were a gangster film from the 1930s, and you’ll get “The Sting.” High on energy and enthusiasm for the craft and loving detail to the time period, combine with wonderful chemistry between Robert Redford and Paul Newman to the point that you are convinced these two were made for one another.
If I’ll remember “The Sting” for anything, it’s the amount of detail it goes into creating an homage to classic gangster films, like “The Public Enemy” and “Little Caesar.” It came be so easy to do a bad gangster homage – put a couple of guys in some fancy suits, have them talk like the Bronx is the only place that ever existed and have lots of shot-outs. But “The Sting” took story elements of the young nobody that wants to beat the system, make a name for himself, and added small details to the background and setting, like the lack of extras. Add in some 1920s music and you get a flawless re-creation of a timeless gangster film.
It is odd that a film so enriched in a different time period can become timeless. For a film made in the 1970s, re-creating the 1920s, “The Sting” is an oddity that matches the tone and atmosphere of many other gangster films, while still having its own charm through the relationship between Redford and Newman. Redford’s charisma and bravado bounces off Newman’s cool-headed attitude and confidence that any scene with the two of them is intoxicating.
“The Sting” is a must-watch for fans of gangster films and anyone fascinated in observing different time periods clashing. Watch for pre-“Jaws” Robert Shaw playing Doyle Lonnegan, an Irish-man with a bad temper and a lot of money.
Final Grade: A-