STUDIO: Universal
MSRP: $26.98
RUNNING TIME: 130 Minutes
• Art of The Sting – Documentary
• Trailer
• Production Notes

I’ve been dying to get my hands on this DVD since I first heard about it. I absolutely love this movie (the theme song is the ring tone on my phone), mostly because there aren’t too many other movies I feel are more deserving of the title “Best Picture.” There are times in the award ceremonies where that term doesn’t always mean what I think it should. The Best Picture should be one where all the individual elements of a film (acting, script, directing, cinematography, etc.) are all individually great and, when they are combined, form something greater than the sum of its parts (much like Voltron). The Sting, does exactly that.

newman's own
"Yes, my salad dressing is big in Germany."

The Flick

The Sting is the ultimate con movie. This is different from a heist movie (like Ocean’s Eleven) in one very important way. Con men (according to lore and displayed in The Sting) never robbed from anyone (like Danny Ocean’s crew does). Instead, the grifter uses a mark’s greed against himself, and ends up swindling the mark for a lot of money.

That’s a very subtle difference, but it is necessary to understand. The grifter has an interesting moral center. In The Sting, both Newman and Redford portray that attitude very well. Neither is about to rob someone outright – but they will set up an elaborate con to swindle someone out of money. Outright stealing, in their mind, is wrong – but staging an elaborate play that makes the mark hand over the money – that’s OK.

You mean… breaking the top of the bottle off with your teeth is not the proper way to sample a fine Bordeaux?

That notion is one of the things that makes The Sting such a wonderful movie. The characters come from a shady world; but one different than viewers were used to seeing. Looking back through film history, we see an oddity in the early 70s. The Godfather Saga reigned supreme, winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1972 and 1974. The Sting is almost the anti-Godfather. Where Godfather is serious, The Sting is whimsical; where Godfather had amoral characters the Sting had characters who conducted illegal activities while adhering to a strict moral code.

There are plenty of characters in The Sting, but ultimately the movie is boiled down to three of them. First is Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), who plays an old con man who is imparting his knowledge of the Big Con onto a young apprentice, Johnny Hooker ( Redford). Their mark is a criminal, Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).

Colts 17, Browns 7. I’m sure it means something, but what? What?

Each of the actors handles their characters brilliantly. Each is played with style and gusto and creates a life for the character. The entire cast is great in the movie – but the interplay between the three principles is magic.

Part of the reason the interplay is so good is because of the acting. Another reason is the fantastic script they had to work with. The script not only creates great characters – but an interesting story for them to play in.

"See, you put this in here like so… and it makes your dick look bigger. Trust me, I’m a Natural."

As the Con unfolds it seems something happens to the screenwriter (David Ward). At some point he realizes that, as he sets into the third act, he has this great twist planned for one of the characters – Lonnegan. After all, he is being conned. The audience, however, is completely aware of it. Not only that, we know every detail. The audience has been involved from the first step and knows every aspect of the plan.

This is a problem for the screenwriter. If everything unfolds as it should – there is no real payoff for the audience. At that moment the screenwriter must realize there is another mark: The Audience. Some vital piece of information must be held back and a misdirect thrown out – so the audience thinks they are seeing one thing, and in reality seeing something different.

The only word that can describe Robert Redford now: Leathery.

In this case it is whether or not Hooker will rat Gondorff out to the Feds. This notion becomes a part of the movie and ultimately is used as a device to feed the audience some misdirection. It works perfectly too. The audience falls for it (as does the mark in the film). The result is giving the audience a little something extra that wasn’t expected. The screenwriter cons the audience perfectly for a better payout.

Another aspect of the film that is just perfect is the score. All the music was old ragtime music by Scott Joplin, dropped into the film. Even though ragtime was no longer popular during the time The Sting takes place, it doesn’t matter. In this case the music isn’t there to strengthen the time period of the movie, as much as it is to accentuate the feeling of the movie.

“HOLY SHIT! I can never look that leathery. I’m Robert Redford. I’m suave. I’m sexy. You wish you were me."

The Sting has a great feel to it – and that feeling is one of the reasons it still works today. Much like Ocean’s Eleven was a few years ago, The Sting is cool and fun. Even the sets and the camera work in the movie are lively. Again, every aspect of the movie is great on its own accord, and plays into the mastery of the film itself.

Director George Roy Hill did a fantastic job with making all the various elements of the movie fall into place. Everything was perfect, from the cinematography to the acting to the music. That’s what I mean by a “Best Picture.” Not (necessarily) when all the elements of a movie come together to form something great, but when each individual piece is great and they come together to form something perfect.

10 out of 10

The Look

Universal really skimped on the extras (as I note below) but they go above and beyond with the technical aspects of the disc. The film looks AMAZING. When watching it, you notice how rich and detailed every frame of the film looks. But it isn’t until you see un-altered footage (like from the trailer) and see how much cleaner it is. This is easily one of the best looking DVDs I own.

10 out of 10

This is Popeye’s pappy. He’s a real Jerk, too.

The Noise

Again, Universal knocked this out of the park. I was really worried about the sound on this disc when I popped it in. The music in The Sting is so vital to its feel I was scared that Universal would mess it up somehow, and an important element to the film wouldn’t come across. I was wrong. They paid special care to the audio (Dolby Digital 5.1; Dolby Digital 2.0; and DTS 5.1) and it comes across.

10 out of 10

“We’re paying how much for this Scott Joplin and I want him playing in my club why?"

The Goodies

Eh. Three extras. Are they serious? I think we’ve been conned! This is the Legacy Series Edition. What’s the point of giving a disc a bloated title like that if the extras involved (which supposedly need their own disc) are a measly three things?

What’s more insulting is that two of the extras aren’t even that grand. The trailer is OK. I love seeing old trailers – but the one included here isn’t even the original trailer! It is the trailer for the re-release of the film. I’d be OK with that if both trailers had been included. Just the re-release trailer, however, seems wrong.

The Production Notes are completely throw-away items. I like when a company packs a disc with extras, and had this disc contained a plethora of goodies I think I’d like the inclusion of the Production Notes more. But, as the disc is bare bones, I want more quality when they sacrifice quantity.

The only extra worth a damn is the documentary, The Art of The Sting. This is a typical DVD extra documentary that splices pieces of the film with a cavalcade of interviews with the cast and crew. The interviews are funny and informative and the cutting between scenes gives them all a sense of direction and purpose.

The documentary is really good, but it alone isn’t enough. This disc should have been busting with extras. Universal could have isolated the score as a separate track or done a featurette on how The Sting’s legacy can be seen in today’s films. But, no.

4 out of 10

She had seemed like a nice enough girl…but the night was a blur and soon Mr. Newman would find he was missing a kidney. He would never pick up another Thai hooker.

The Artwork

Perfect. Creating the drawing feel to the picture is a perfect feel for the movie. The box contains rich colors that help the drawing on the front stand out as well. Really good stuff.

10 out of 10

Overall: 8.4 out of 10