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George Roy Hill
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, John Heffernan, Dana Elcar
Writing Credits:
David S. Ward

...all it takes is a little confidence.

Winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, The Sting stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford as two con men in 1930s Chicago. After a friend is killed by the mob, they try to get even by attempting to pull off the ultimate "sting." No one is to be trusted as the twists unfold, leading up to one of the greatest double-crosses in movie history. The con is on!

Box Office:
$5.5 million.
Domestic Gross
$156.000 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 9/6/2005

• “The Art of The Sting” Documentary
• Production Notes
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Sting: Legacy Series (1973)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 13, 2005)

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 about $100 million at the box office - huge bucks in 1969, and a figure that would equal more than $400 million today.

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, which would translate to nearly well over $500 million these days. 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. It's a period piece - Oscar rarely picks movies that take place in the current era - 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.

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; people are 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 is 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 compensated. 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 is the closest thing to a weak link in the main cast. Overall he's more than competent, but he simply seemed 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 didn't ruin the film, I still couldn'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 DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Sting appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That marked a change from the original DVD, which offered a fullscreen transfer. This new one improved on it in other ways, but it’s not a great leap forward in quality, unfortunately.

Sharpness presented one of the concerns. The majority of the movie looked adequately defined, but lapses in detail occurred with some frequency. More than a few of those instances seemed to relate to the presence of moderate edge enhancement; haloes were noticeable during many points. Shimmering also popped up at times, but no jagged edges appeared.

Source flaws diminished from the earlier transfer but continued to cause distractions. The movie seemed grainier than I’d expect, and various examples of specks and grit showed up throughout the flick. I also noticed an occasional blotch and some flashing early in the film. The defects never became overwhelming, but they created concerns.

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. They seemed well-saturated and lacked noise or smearing. Black levels were also quite good, and shadow detail usually appeared appropriately opaque. While this transfer did improve over the original fullscreen affair, I thought the softness, edge enhancement and source defects created too many issues for it to earn a grade above a “C+”.

Another change from the old DVD came with the audio of The Sting. While the prior release solely offered the movie’s original monaural mix, the new one presented that track along with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 remixes. As often is the case, I thought the pair sounded identical and noticed no differences between them.

At least The Sting offered greater room for sonic ambition than did To Kill a Mockingbird, another film that originally featured mono sound and received a 5.1 “upgrade”. Still, I think the presence of both Dolby Digital and DTS tracks remains overkill, as the DVD would be fine with just one 5.1 mix.

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; 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.

The main differences that I heard when I compared the 5.1 tracks to the original mono mix related to the soundscape. Audio quality was quite similar for all of them, but obviously the 5.1 mixes opened up the spectrum. I figured that was enough to merit a “B” instead of the old DVD’s “B-“.

The original DVD included only a couple of minor supplements. This “Legacy Series” release doesn’t do a whole lot to change that situation, unfortunately. We get one major new component on its second platter: a documentary called The Art of The Sting. This program lasts 56 minutes and 17 seconds as it presents movie clips, archival materials, and 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.

In addition to the documentary, we also find some very good text production notes. These offer quite a lot of information about the film. We also get the flick’s theatrical trailer, though it was created for a post-Oscars reissue.

The Sting is 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 DVD offers good sound plus decent picture and a minor set of extras highlighted by a very good documentary.

This two-DVD “Legacy Series” take on The Sting isn’t a slam-dunk, mostly because of the erratic visuals and skimpy extras. Nonetheless, I do recommend it. Folks who don’t own the old DVD should check it out, and it also would fare as a good upgrade. I don’t think it blows away the prior DVD, but it improves matters enough to merit a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.238 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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