A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Sting is the classic 1973 crime caper in which Robert Redford with Paul Newman play a pair of grifters looking to get even with the mob boss who killed their friend. There's a lot of cigarette and cigar smoking. Some gun violence, including a scene in which a character is shot in the forehead and killed. A man is found dead in an alley. Some profanity, including the "N" word. Women are shown in a vaudeville show topless except for pasties on their nipples. In an extended scene in which one of the lead characters is playing poker on a train, the lead character pretends to be drunk on gin, sloppily pouring from a bottle into a shot glass while slurring his words (the bottle is actually filled with water). When the two lead characters first meet, one of the characters is extremely hungover and possibly still drunk; he is dragged into a bathtub to sit under a cold-water shower until he sobers up.
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What's the story?
THE STING teams Robert Redford with Paul Newman in a lively 1930s crime caper. When grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and his partner Luther cross the wrong mobster, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), Luther turns up dead. Seeking revenge, Johnny enlists the help of old friend Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), con artist extraordinaire. On a train to Chicago, Johnny and Henry get in on a high stakes game of poker with Doyle, roping him into a larger scheme. With some help from a large supporting cast of accomplices, Johnny hatches an extended plot to bilk Doyle out of every penny he has. The fun stops when the FBI puts the screws to Hooker, convincing him to be part of a sting operation to catch the real big fish, Gondorff. In the end, the last one to double-cross the other wins.
Is it any good?
Part of the entertainment of The Sting is just how elaborate the scams can be. The entire movie is an extended series of sidelong glances, winks, and nods. At different moments in the story, the audience is positioned as the shyster and the mark, never sure who is telling the truth. It's a film steeped in nostalgia, not only in its setting, but in style as well. It has more than a few retro touches, from the storybook introduction to each act to the shadowy alleys reminiscent of 1940s film noir.
Despite some serious moments for the sake of drama, the film is full of joyfulness that borders on smugness. The fun in watching it comes from knowing that someone is being taken for a ride, but not knowing exactly who has the upper hand or exactly how things will play out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the serious ramifications of a life of crime that are not addressed in this film. What are the risks involved with planning such schemes? Were these crooks driven to crime because of the Great Depression? If someone constantly lies and cheats others, can he ever be trusted, even by his closest friends?
What are some of the ways in which the movie brings to life Chicago in the 1930s?
How are women represented in this movie? How is it different from the way men are represented?
- In theaters: December 25, 1973
- On DVD or streaming: March 31, 1998
- Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
- Director: George Roy Hill
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild violence
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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