What fun, conning a crime lord out of half a million dollars

‘The Sting’ screened at SAFMA.

Bilal Iqbal October 23, 2011


When Hooker’s partner is killed by a crime boss, there’s but one thing on his mind: revenge. And revenge for Hooker (Robert Redford) can mean just one thing: a big con, because he “don’t know enough about killing to kill him”.

George Roy Hill’s seven-Oscar winner The Sting was screened by Safma as part of its bimonthly film screening. The attendance was sparse, perhaps because of the changed time (from the usual 5pm to 4pm). The screening itself had minor frame hang-ups, a side-effect of the low quality DVDs available in Pakistan. The organisers turned on the subtitles, which helped with the 1930s accents.

The Sting is not your typical Oscar-material. It does not involve big drama, or tears for that matter. It’s a light, fun film that makes for a refreshing change from the usual award winners. As a heist film, it does go through the usual motions associated with them. There’s the planning, the bait and the sting. But as anyone who has seen more than a few films will tell you, the premise of a film means naught - it’s the execution that counts.

The music complements the light tones of the film and the fast-paced screenplay keeps the action moving along by dividing the narrative into chapters. There are some big names associated with the movie (Paul Newman, Robert Shaw), but the script and the director do not make much demands on them. The film probably would have worked just as well without the star-studded cast (although it might not have been as well known today).

Some might say the plot is too unrealistic and many things happen just too conveniently, but one has to consider that the film is set in the 1930s. For all its charm, the lack of technology in the past meant pulling such cons was much easier back then. Of course the film does require a measure of suspension of disbelief, partly because it does not want to be a serious affair, and once you accept the film’s diegesis, you will find yourself being thoroughly enjoyed by the charisma of its stars and the charm of its light-hearted story.

That’s not to say that the film is a straight forward affair. It pulls a small little con of its own on the viewer, hitting you hard at first and then leaving you with a smile on your face - the perfect way to end such a film.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2011.


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