George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slaughterhouse-Five, Slap Shot) directs this seven-time Academy Award-winning film (including Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Score) about Great Depression-era grifters Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) who are out to fleece Irish American mobster Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), who murdered their friend.
Incredibly stylish with amazing sets and costumes, the film’s score features classic Scott Joplin compositions and a screenplay by David S. Ward (Major League, Sleepless in Seattle) with enough twists and turns to tie viewers into knots. Newman and Redford are at their roguish best, and the ensemble cast—which includes Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, and Robert Earl Jones—is brilliant.
Despite murder and its crime theme, the film wisely keeps things light, concerning itself with humor and a story so complicated that viewers can’t help but be impressed the filmmakers kept it together and had it all make sense. It was a favorite of mine as a kid, and I learned a lot about sleight of hand, grifting, and the genius of Scott Joplin. Better yet, it holds up artistically. They don’t make ’em like this anymore. (129 min.)