Hey folks, I thought I would take this rather quiet week as an opportunity to try something a little different and perhaps write about a few cool things that I have been watching recently. Maybe it will give you some inspiration to watch something you have yet to see, or just have a little off topic chat about something you’ve already seen.
This time I will talk about two pieces, a classic and a bit of a wild card.
The Classic: The Sting
The Wild Card: V for Vendetta
The Classic: The Sting
Set in Bootleggers favourite; Joliet, Illinois in 1936 the murder of a 'grifter' causes ripples throughout the underworld. Grifters are the small-time con artists who work the streets. They know and respect one another, and the death of Luther brings all the con men from far and wide together in a plan of revenge. Doyle Lonnegan is the New York Irish Mob Boss who ordered Luther's execution, so the grifters target him for the "big con".
"The Sting" was devised as a follow-up to "Butch Cassidy", reuniting Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Hooker (Robert Redford) as lovable, wisecracking rogues. The narrative and all-round interaction between these two is one of the films main draws!
Lonnegan, the bad guy has two personality traits - greed and cruelty. A con is put together which will use these characteristics against him. The best way to hurt Lonnegan is to scam him out of his money, because the sharks of the criminal fraternity will turn on him once they see that he's been conned. Lonnegan must never know that this was a scam, because if he did, he come after our heroes. He must believe that he lost his money through his own stupidity, and that the men who took it are now dead.
Redford plays Hooker; one of our grifters; to perfection. He is a handsome and charming 'man of the people'. There is not a harsh bone in his body, and yet he spends his life ducking, diving and dodging lead. Luther was his father figure, and we see Hooker transfer his fierce allegiance to Henry Gondorff.
The film is full of technical cleverness. Whoever went out and scouted for locations did a great job, because the 1930's look is fantastic. If the streets around the betting shop were 'faked' on a movie set, then this alone would make The Sting wonderful. Watch the urban period detail as Lonnegan goes across to place his first bet, and again at the start of "The Wire". Hooker suddenly realises that Luther is dead, and we see 'the penny drop' by means of a very simple but very effective device - the camera zooms back. No redundant dialogue, no over-acting.
The script is intelligent and intricate. The 'big con' has safety features built into it, such as the well-worked 'shut-out'. For us as the audience to really love the grifters it is necessary to depict the police as vicious, immoral and downright sleazy. Local dick Snyder is all of this, and more, his character being a masterpiece of dim-witted malevolence.
The Sting is a splendid film. Robert Shaw's Irish accent may be somewhat shaky, and Solino may be an assassin too far - but the whole of this complicated contraption works and works well. The on screen relationship between Redford and Newman is what lifts this movie to another level, but it was always going to be a hit; technically perfect and with a fantastic script, for me it is a must see, a true classic.
If you liked this, try Sneaky Pete; Ya Follow?
IMDB Score: 8.3
My Score: 9.0
The Wild Card: V for Vendetta
This movie is simply an outstanding work of art.
It makes big political statements and wants that message to be forced repeatedly into your face! Think of 1984, for those of you that have read it, the message that governments, if left unchecked will seek more and more control, all because it’s good for you….. right?
Well like many works that deal with issue of greater conformity and government involvement in everyday life; V for Vendetta sees a rise up of the people, a true grass roots revolution led by our hero in a Guy Fawkes mask; V.
“Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.”
The movie is poetic, romantic and so very human, V meets Evie (Natalie Portman) who gives us a career making performance as we witness her transformation into full blown revolutionist.
John Hurt plays the main villain and government leader, he is one of very few actors I have watched play a villain and genuinely hated (Also Calvin Candie in Django), he makes my skin crawl with such a fantastic performance. A nice cameo by British national treasure Stephen Fry is by stark contrast, gentle and kind but keeps the performance of the acting top notch.
The story itself is fast moving, powerful and strangely believable when put alongside other works in this genre, such as the very enjoyable Equilibrium or the more recent Divergent.
The movie eventually builds to a poetic, beautiful and action packed crescendo with the films underlying message burning in front of your eyes; We, the people ultimately have the power, so long as we are united.
Just watch this one, and if you have already seen it, watch it again.
IMDB Score: 8.2
My Score: 9.5
Thanks for reading, next time I will again write about two pieces; the first being something with a Bootleggers Connection; Boardwalk Empire.
The Second movie or TV show I will leave to a peoples vote; please feel free to make a recommendation for something for me to watch and critique next time, write your suggestions below.