Before anything else, I’d just like to acknowledge a minor role in this movie, played by Robert Earl Jones, father of James Earl. His voice bears such a striking resemblance to his son’s famous baritone that I literally spent the first twenty minutes trying to place it before caving and looking it up. He plays the likeable character Luther, who trains his protégé Robert Redford in the fine art of the street con – before they cross paths with the wrong mobster.
Also on the subject of family relations, there’s a bodyguard in this movie who is a dead ringer for Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I will never be convinced that he is not actually Flea’s father.
Oh, yeah, also starring is the famous duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Quite a few years ago, I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but I must have been too young or something to appreciate it because I found it decidedly boring. Oddly enough, though, I swear there was a makeover montage scene in that movie that was a dead ringer for the one in The Sting. Was there just something about Newman and Redford that inspired shots of them being kitted out in fancy new duds in every film they were in together?
It is, in fact, my experience with films like Butch that have made me cautious about watching other classic movies because I inevitably seem to find them less than they’re cracked up to me. However, I knew next to nothing about this movie (I do my best not to read much about an unfamiliar movie on the Best Picture list before I watch it in order to allow myself the freshest viewing possible. Hey, you try shielding yourself from spoilers of decades-old movies.)
There’s a particular kind of film where a character who’s not exactly a good guy becomes sympathetic because he’s placed in circumstances where he’s the enemy of an even nastier guy. In real life, you probably wouldn’t root for a con man, but if he looks like Robert Redford, anything goes. I think the other appealing part about the story is that you can support the underdog, the guy who’s in over his head and now has mob bosses and cops all after him. You kind of want somebody like that to catch a break.
Beyond that, I probably don’t speak only for myself when I admit that stories about poker and gambling are appealing in a vicarious way because I’d like to believe that I could be a poker master, despite an utter lack of evidence of any talent or innate ability in this area. The actual work of memorizing probabilities and reading faces and all that is not nearly as attractive as the general sense of what it might be like to be able to, say, shuffle cards without awkward stray flutters. We all want to be card sharks. Or is it sharps? I’ve heard it both ways.
With so many of the films on this list taking themselves way too seriously, it’s nice to watch something that just ends up being a fun romp. Why is it, these days especially, that a movie is only considered Important if it’s serious enough to put you to sleep?
Theme: crime spree
First Time Watching? Yes
Final Verdict: Wins by a nose