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The Sting
cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, and Ray Walton

director: George Roy Hill

124 minutes (PG) 1973
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail
[released 28 November]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
It's always nice when something lives up to the hype. George Roy Hill's classic heist movie is just that; a classic whose long overdue return to DVD is the best news you'll hear this month.

It's 1930s' Chicago and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) is a small time con man whose partner has just left the life forever, Hooker is smart, fast and lucky and thinks he's even better than he is. When his partner is murdered by a criminal banker intimately connected to the Chicago underworld, Johnny is desperate for revenge and ends up with Henry Gondorff, a man who really is as good as Johnny thinks he is. Hooker is a master of the small con, Gondorff a master of the big time who is physically incapable of being surprised. The plan they develop is huge, fraught with risks but if it works will avenge their friend and get them a healthy stack of money into the bargain. That is, if it works.

The Sting is made for DVD, almost literally. George Roy Hill broke the film down into chapters; each illustrated with a chapter card and designed to allow the viewer to follow the incredibly complex and constantly evolving heist. However, on DVD the effect is heightened still further, becoming almost a walkthrough on how the heist was done. It's all backed by one of the best scores in cinema history too - George Gershwin's jazz piano perfectly capturing the mood of the characters.

However, this is a film that's made by the dream casting of Redford and Newman in its lead roles. Redford gets the lion's share of screen time here and after all his years on the screen it makes a pleasant change to see a film where he's playing the young, inexperienced character. He does a great job too, his Johnny Hooker a bundle of nervous energy and anger that the other characters spend all their time wrangling. An element of chaos in an intricately planned scheme, he brings intelligence and a deadpan humour to the role.

Newman's Gondoroff couldn't be more different. Newman has always excelled when he underplays and this is no exception. Gondorff is always five steps ahead of everyone else and as a result is the most relaxed character in the film. He also has a gravitas that Hooker lacks and Newman really makes you feel that this is a man who has been around the block more than once.

Whether viewed as a period piece, a comedy, a heist movie or a character driven drama, The Sting is a class act. Do yourself a favour and rediscover it.

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