Is "The Sting" The Best Gambling Film Ever Made?

The Sting
Despite the fact that many of the best individual films in the genre were made decades ago, gambling films have never quite escaped public attention. At least once every few years, a mainstream film is released that touches on gambling in one way or another, whether it revolves around gaming entirely, features casino settings, or, in the case of the more recent Runner Runner, even dabbles in the modern online gaming industry. There's just something about casino themes that seems to build intrigue and sex appeal no matter how many times we see it.
 
And as with any genre that experiences sustained popularity, it's always a lively debate when someone asks what the best film of the group is. Particularly in the casino and gambling genre, this debate is just about impossible to answer, because different titles will always appeal more to different generations. A current college student will likely choose Ocean's 11 (the 2001 version) as a favorite, while The Cincinnati Kid ight appeal more to a whole generation! But recently, we might have gotten the closest thing to a 'correct' answer on this topic as one can find. In a response to a Partypoker tweet asking for his favorite gambling films of all time, prominent screenwriter Brian Koppelman (who penned Rounders, Ocean's 13, and the aforementioned Runner Runner) mentioned The Sting as one of his all-time favorites. And as the writer behind arguably the most well-known poker film ever in Rounders, Koppelman can be regarded as a trusted authority!
 
So, is The Sting truly one of the top gambling films ever made? That's still a matter of personal opinion, but given that it's a great film largely lost on younger generations, here's a brief retro review!
 
Made in 1973 by director George Roy Hill and screenwriter David S. Ward, the film stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman, who at the time had already achieved on-screen glory together in the 1969 western Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. This time around, Redford plays the role of Johnny Hooker, a sort of con man who finds himself on the wrong side of Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), a ruthless mob boss who ultimately kills Hooker's partner and forces Hooker to flee to Chicago. Once in Chicago, Hooker seeks the help of legendary con man Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), who had been recommended to him as a partner by the same man Lonnegan has killed.
 
With Gondorff roped into the plan, Hooker begins an elaborate con designed not only to bank a fortune, but primarily to get back at Lonnegan. The con begins with Gondorff's posing as a major bookie buying into a high-stakes poker game run by Lonnegan. Yet, as is the case in any good con film, the original plan soon evolves into a complex web of trickery, backstabbing, and FBI involvement. And with poker, horse racing, and crooked financial dealings at the center of it all, Hooker's plot for vengeance ultimately amounts to a sort of every-man-for-himself scramble to avoid detection, capture, and even death at the hands of various parties.
 
In the end, what we're left with is one of the cleverest blends of crime and gambling ever depicted in film. Newman and Redford always had an undeniable chemistry on screen (even if they're less of a team in this than in Butch Cassidy), and this partnership, coupled with what still reads as a very sharp script, makes for a film that's surprisingly timeless. If you're in it purely for gambling, you may still prefer a film like The Hustler or Rounders. But if a gritty, well-rounded look at a world of crime revolving around casino culture, be sure to give The Sting a look.

Guest Post by William Sanders

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