The surprise hit of chemistry between leading men Paul Newman and Robert Redford left me hungry for more of their encounters. Was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a one-off spectacle that was the right cast at the right time? It’s looking more and more like that as I reminisce about the forgettable time I spent with The Sting.
As ever, the talented duo of Newman and Redford is a hit. It’s not as strong a chemistry as that of their performances in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but that is the only other point of reference for their duo work. Working once more with George Roy Hill (also the director of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), The Sting follows two con artists looking to con a mob boss. It sounds simple enough, but the sheer ferocity of The Sting makes it a confused and sometimes unwelcoming film.
While Newman may have had the slight edge when it came to performance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it’s Robert Redford that steals the show in The Sting. His role as Johnny Hooker may not be his best or finest work, but he’s an interesting underdog that ends up in the stereotypical Hollywood happy ending, and it works in his favour as he’s paired with the aging, yet still brilliant con-man, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman). Unfortunately their chemistry isn’t enough to pull out of a confusing and forgettable plot that has been done better elsewhere time and time again.
Scott Joplin’s score has become so inundated with contemporary pieces of media, that it’s hard to take The Sting’s score seriously when you’re reminded of the Felix the Cat food adverts that played before your daily dose of Saturday night entertainment. That’s an unavoidable conclusion to make though, and it’s certainly not the fault of the film. It doesn’t add all that much either though, and the use of placard style chapter sequences really breaks the pace of the movie. There’s no natural flow, and great chunks of the movie feel stilted, and worse, forgettable.
It certainly lacks the same action-packed highlights and tension that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid held, but The Sting is still a fairly solid and thrilling piece of film that will appeal to fans of the Newman and Redford chemistry. It was the only reason I watched the movie, and it’s one of the few reasons I can recommend it.