It was just an average 1936 day outside of Chicago for Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Luther Coleman when they pulled a con on someone. They didn’t realize the man they just got thousands of dollars from worked for Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Lonnegan is the notorious con man who has a murderous streak when he’s cheated. When he has someone kill Luther, Hooker seeks revenge.
He finds Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), a much more experienced con artist who lives next to a carousel. Hooker convinces Gondorff to help him get Lonnegan. Together, with a whole crew behind them, they hatch an elaborate scheme to con half a million dollars out of Lonnegan. But Lonnegan is onto them, has men trying to kill them and Hooker left a counterfeiting trail for the FBI to follow.
From the moment we see Hooker sporting a maroon pin-striped suit, we label him a loose cannon. When he loses all his money in a single spin of roulette, it’s confirmed. Robert Redford expertly brings out the cocky kid just wanting revenge who’s in real need of the more experienced Gondorff. With Paul Newman playing Gondorff, we know we’re in for a treat. We first meet him passed out drunk on the floor, but it isn’t long until he’s molding the game around Lonnegan and keeping three steps ahead of him. I especially enjoyed the scene where Gondorff pretends to be drunk during a crooked card game.
How do the two try to put Lonnegan over a barrel? It’s more fun to watch and find out rather than to be told. That’s what makes this such a good movie, the twists, the double-crossers only too late finding out they’ve been triple-crossed. The surprises aren’t just for the bad guys, but for the viewer as well. How did George Roy Hill know I loved surprises?
I’ll be the first to admit, the movie can feel long or boring in the middle, especially if you miss a piece of the puzzle. You could get lost and thus, lose interest. Thankfully those surprise moments bring clarification now and then and can keep you on track. My advice; watch The Sting when you’re in a thinking mood, don’t just veg out to it.
“Sit down and shut up, will ya? Try not to live up to all my expectations.”
At the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich, a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September murdered eleven Israeli athletes. Outraged, Prime Minister Golda Meir allows a mission lead by Avner (Eric Bana) to hunt down the terrorists responsible one by one and kill them. Avner has a war hero father to live up to and a pregnant wife at home to take care of.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. That means you wait and let things settle before going out for blood. Not much time passes between the Black September murders and the revenge plan in action. That might have been mistake number one followed by many more to come.
The story can be hard to follow since everyone is at least partially undercover, no one is honest and names are hardly used. All plot and character development outside of strictly Avner is under so many layers they can be hard to decipher in one sitting. If you really want to understand this film, it takes more than one showing. If you want a film where someone goes around killing for revenge or retribution or whatever, pick something more straightforward, like Kill Bill.
The main problem for me was that I wasn’t for killing anyone in the first place. Why would this guy do that? He’s got a wife and kid to think about and he doesn’t seem too stupid or eager to live up to his father. Yet he doesn’t seem so wrapped up in Jew vs Arab to become so involved. If he really got so involved with this out of passion and thinking that the money would help his family, couldn’t we compare Avner to many enraged fanatics simply out for blood?
My big question the whole time was how will this help “the Jews”? They feel horribly wronged for the holocaust, I get it. And killing your Olympic team is a real kick to the nuts, I understand. But who puts together a group to kill those involved and thinks it’s going to be a good thing? They’re not heroes. They’re revenge isn’t doing any good and only endangering the next generation. I wish they could be good people, I wish this cycle of violence would stop, I wish they would all think further down the line. The people they kill will be replaced and when they find out who killed who, they’ll come after Avner and the gang.
I just became more upset and angry as the film progressed. If this film is entirely true, I hope Avner’s little girl can set a better example than her father.
“We are supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. And we’re losing it. If I lose that, that’s everything. That’s my soul.”