Precious Bodily Fluids

The Sting

Not “a” childhood favorite, but “the” childhood favorite: The Sting. Taught me everything I needed to know about the blurry area between “right” and “wrong.” Is it really unethical to steal from someone who steals for a living? Is it immoral to lie to a guy who had your best friend killed? Yeah, they’re all perpetuating criminal activity in a world overrun with it, but it’s every man for himself when the cops are as dirty as the big-con bosses. This is the type of film that appeals to the crook in all of us – not unlike the previous Newman-Redford film from George Roy Hill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They are designed to elicit enormous pleasure from their audience, and they deliver. As good as the poker scenes are in the recent Casino Royale, they have none of the charm of Paul Newman or the joy of seeing Robert Shaw’s face when someone cheats him better than he cheats. With a face and an accent and a posture like Shaw’s who needs the villain’s eye to weep blood? This is one of those films that doesn’t encourage its viewers to think as much as to feel. On the other hand, something is being said about class. Luther’s retirement offers him the occasion to push Hooker toward the big con, insisting that he has what it takes – including the skin tone – to succeed at a higher level. Henry Gondorf is reduced to operating a merry-go-round, lying low until an opportunity like this arises to hit one of the big guys where it hurts. The film is shot completely from the shabby point of view of the lower class. Attention is even given to the little guys who want in on the big heist. The film revels in leveling class structures by transgressing hypocritical moral boundaries. Characters do what they do because they have to and because society doesn’t really expect them to do differently. These are not the Ocean’s Eleven guys, pretty boys who wear Versace, frost their hair, wax their chests, and blow their dough on attempts to climb the capitalist ladder. They’re beautiful enough that they’re content to couple with sub-par dames and wear suspenders over their wife-beaters.

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This entry was published on November 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm. It’s filed under 1970s Cinema, American film and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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