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#196 - The Sting
George Roy Hill, 1973

A pair of con artists team up to go after a crime boss after one of their associates is murdered.

The Sting is a reasonably solid if not altogether amazing little crime film. I was fond enough of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, though not completely blown away by it - I sort of had a similar reaction to this film, which reunites director Hill with stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Redford makes for a heavily flawed yet ultimately likeable protagonist as the small-time grifter whose accidental taking of a big score lands him in hot water with a vicious crime boss (Robert Shaw, who even manages a convincing Irish accent as part of his role). Newman, almost predictably, plays a once-legendary grifter who has gone to pot a bit but is roused into returning by Redford and soon demonstrates his own considerable talent for scams. They assemble a crew of experienced conmen and set about trying to fleece Shaw by any means necessary, resulting in them having to improvise some incredibly improbable schemes in order to make their long con pay off - and then they attract the attention of the law...

It shouldn't be surprising that a film as well-known as this one would ultimately inspires decades of imitators, but The Sting holds up well enough because of how inherently fun it is to watch lovable rogues pull off elaborate cons against both the unambiguously villainous and the inspectors trying to catch them. The camararderie between both leads helps carry this film, as does the plotting of each new part of their con, such as one scene where Newman and Shaw play a high-stakes card game while trying to see who can cheat the other man better. It also helps that the Oscar-winning costume design by none other than Edith Head perfectly encapsulates the film's 1930s setting. Though I'd complain that the film doesn't quite have the same humourous bent that made Butch Cassidy so memorable and that the film's maybe a bit longer than it really needs to be, these end up being minor complaints against a visually well-crafted film that keeps its plot rolling with some solid setpieces and good casting.