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George Roy Hill
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
Writing Credits:
David S. Ward

Two grifters team up to pull off the ultimate con.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 6/5/2012

• “The Art of The Sting” Documentary
• “Restoring the Classics” Featurette
• “The 70s” Featurette
• “The Lot” Featurette
• Trailer
• DVD Copy


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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Sting [Blu-Ray] (1973)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2020)

When Robert Redford and Paul Newman first teamed for 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they made a huge hit. The movie snared a little more than $100 million at the box office, huge bucks at that time.

However, the next pairing of Redford and Newman topped even that amazing take. That would be 1973's Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Sting, a film that also reunited those actors with Butch Cassidy director George Roy Hill.

The Sting grabbed almost $160 million, another massive haul for its day. Not too bad for a modest little comedy about a couple of ambitious con men.

The Sting seems like an unusual movie to win Best Picture, as it lacks almost all of the qualities we normally associate with such victors. Like many winners, it's a period piece, but it lacks any sort of epic feel and it doesn't deal with broad, heroic issues.

Instead, The Sting just gives us a clever and entertaining little romp through Depression-era crime. No lessons are learned and no life obstacles are overcome. It's just a caper flick that reels us in and keeps us hooked for its full two hours.

After the murder of Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones), Johnny Hooker (Redford) seeks revenge. He recruits fellow conman Henry Gondorff (Newman) to achieve this goal.

Criminal kingpin Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) played a role in Luther’s demise, so Hooker and Gondorff join forces against him. They plan the ultimate swindle to hit Doyle where it hurts: financially.

Hill does an excellent job of moving the film along at a snappy pace and keeping the proceedings breezy. The Sting isn't all bubblegum and daffodils, so people get killed, sometimes semi-graphically and coldly. However, the movie maintains a slightly cartoony feel that suits it, so the violence doesn't taint the story with an overly negative sentiment.

Despite that light tone, The Sting manages to feel gritty enough that we muster concern for our heroes. Did I think that either of them wouldn't make it to the end of the movie? Nope.

Was I nonetheless concerned that one would drop out along the way? Yup.

Rare is a film that can make me actively question the potential survival of a major star when the movie in question is from such a peppy genre, but that's the way I felt during The Sting.

The film offers a somewhat convoluted script - the scam in which Redford and Newman involve themselves can be rather complicated - but it all makes sense in time. Plot twists come together nicely by the conclusion so even if you've been confused for much of the movie, you'll be content by the end. The script also provides some sharp dialogue that makes the journey all the more enjoyable.

Newman seems nearly perfect as experienced grifter Henry Gondorff. To be honest, the part is closer to a supporting role than a leading one - Redford's rle is clearly the main character - but Newman makes the most of what he has, so I can't quibble too much about the billing.

Robert Shaw is also excellent as the prospective pigeon, big time crook Doyle Lonnegan. Okay, Shaw's Irish accent doesn't always cut the mustard - I occasionally had an urge to scarf down some Lucky Charms - but his presence as a burly, intimidating leader more than compensates.

The remaining supporting cast includes top-notch veterans like Ray Walston, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan and Harold Gould, all of whom bring life to their parts. (And yes, Robert Earl Jones - who plays Luther - is related to James Earl Jones. Robert's his father, and while his voice isn't quite as sonorous as his son's, you can definitely hear the resemblance.)

Redford becomes the closest thing to a weak link in the main cast. Overall he's more than competent, but he simply seems slightly wrong for the part.

Two-bit crook Johnny Hooker should have been at least a little scraggly and gritty, two qualities Redford couldn't muster if his life depended on it. Too much of Redford's "golden boy" sheen shines through in his acting, and while this definitely doesn't ruin the film, I still can't help but feel that he wasn't the right guy for the role.

Obviously his presence helped make the movie click at the box office and didn’t affect the praise it reaped, but I gotta gripe about something!

There's not much about The Sting that deserves criticism, though. Don't expect it to be a grand, epic saga, because it's not and it never pretends that it is.

The Sting is simply a superbly executed film about some small-time crooks who decide to try to enter the big time. It entertains from start to finish, and that's enough.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Sting appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. At least partially due to the source, this became a decent but inconsistent image.

Sharpness usually worked fine, as the majority of the film brought appealing delineation. Some softness popped up at times, however, a factor exacerbated by some mild edge haloes.

Light shimmering also popped up at times – mainly due to checked clothes - but no jagged edges appeared. Grain felt fairly natural, so while I couldn’t rule out noise reduction, at least it seemed clear the image didn’t get scrubbed too heavily. In terms of print flaws, I saw a smattering of small specks but nothing much.

Despite the low-key production design that matched the film’s Depression era, colors generally looked bright and vivid and offered some of the high points of the image. Though much of the image emphasized a sepia feel, other hues seemed well-saturated and lacked noise or smearing.

Black levels were also quite good, and shadow detail usually appeared appropriately opaque. This won’t be regarded as a demo image – and it could demonstrate improvements – but the movie usually looked reasonably fine.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Sting opened up the image in a modest way. Music demonstrated decent stereo imaging, and atmospheric scenes got a boost.

Usually we heard audio from the sides for shots with street life such as cars or trains. The gambling dens also showed some extra breadth.

The mix didn’t go nuts, though, as it stayed reasonably true to its single-channel roots. Surrounds added some light reinforcement of the elements but not much else, so you’ll be excused if you don’t even notice their presence.

The quality of the audio was solid. Dialogue usually integrated well with the picture and sounded relatively natural and intelligible. Effects reasonably realistic and lacked much distortion.

Scott Joplin's music came across terrifically well; the ragtime songs sounded clear and rich, with a little bit of nice bass tossed into the mix. For material from an older source, The Sting sounded pretty good.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the Legacy Series DVD from 2005? The lossless audio offered a bit more range, though the limited nature of the source meant we didn’t find a major improvement.

Visuals also demonstrated the drawbacks of the original, but the Blu-ray looked better defined, cleaner and brighter than the DVD. This turned into a satisfying step up in quality.

One negative: the Blu-ray dropped the movie’s original monaural soundtrack. It appeared on the DVD and should’ve popped up here as well.

The Blu-ray repeats the Legacy Series DVD’s extras and adds a few more. From that 2005 DVD, a documentary called The Art of The Sting lasts 56 minutes, 14 seconds as it presents remarks from writer David Ward, musical adapter Marvin Hamlisch, and actors Robert Redford, Ray Walston, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, and Dimitra Arliss.

We learn about the origins of the movie and Ward’s writing of it, assembling a cast and crew, the film’s music, recreating the Depression-era setting and the use of slang, the director’s style, the actors’ work and their interactions, the story and its complications, and general thoughts. That latter topic means the show degrades into a praise-fest at the end, especially about the greatness of director George Roy Hill.

Until that point, it works awfully well. We get a decent sense of the way the production functioned, but better yet, we hear many great stories from the participants about approaches to characters, Hill’s recommendations, and nuts and bolts like the use of music. The show offers many insightful and interesting moments to turn into a winning documentary.

Under the banner of 100 Years of Universal, we find three featurettes. “Restoring the Classics” goes for nine minutes, 13 seconds and offers statements from Universal Studios Vault Services VP of Image Assets/Preservation Bob O’Neil, Universal Studios Technical Services VP Peter Schade, Kodak Pro-Tek Media Preservation VP of Preservation Services Rick Utley, Universal Studios Digital Services engineer Henry Ball, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Phil Defibaugh, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Ken Tom, and Universal Studios Technical Services supervising sound editor John Edell.

“Restoring” covers all the procedures used to bring Sting and other movies to Blu-ray. It’s a reasonably informative take on the subject.

“The ‘70s” goes for 11 minutes, one second as it provides notes from filmmakers Peter Berg, Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Peyton Reed, Amy Heckerling, Ron Howard, Judd Apatow, Hal Needham, Ivan Reitman, and Stephen Daldry, writers David S. Ward and Bob Gale, former Universal executive Edgar Bronfman, Jr., journalist Geoff Boecher, and actors Russell Crowe, Ted Danson, Paul Rudd, Dermot Mulroney, Danny DeVito, and John Krasinski.

In “The Lot”, we get a nine-minute, 25-second piece in which we hear from Spielberg, Rudd, Reed, Reitman, Berg, Landis, Howard, filmmakers Michael Mann, Phil Alden Robinson, and John Carpenter, NBC Universal Archives and Collections director Jeff Pirtle, Universal Studios Hollywood tour guide Molly Orr, and actors Dan Aykroyd and Meryl Streep.

“’70s” discusses The Sting, American Graffiti, The Jerk, Smokey and the Bandit, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and Jaws. “The Lot” takes us around the Universal Studios locations and tells us a little about movies made there.

As noted, we hear a little about Sting in “’70s”, and some brief snippets appear in “Lot” as well. Despite the featurettes’ essential disconnect from Bandit, they’re both pretty fun. While they aim to promote the greatness that is Universal, they’re still light and likable.

We also get the flick’s theatrical trailer, though it was created for a post-Oscars reissue. A second disc provides a DVD copy of the movie with “Art” and the trailer but none of the “100 Years” featurettes.

The Sting delivers a solidly entertaining little film. It aspires to be nothing more than a consistently compelling and delightful movie and it succeeds on all counts. The Blu-ray offers largely satisfactory picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. This never turns into a great release, but it offers the strongest version of the film on home video to date.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of THE STING

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