The Grifters (1990)

STEPHEN FREARS

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB.  USA, 1990.  Cineplex-Odeon Films.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1990.  Golden Globe Awards 1990.  

Anjelica Huston, John Cusack and Annette Bening in The Grifters. Huston and Bening were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles.

Superb gangster film is probably the best example of modern film noir out there, about the lives of three con artists and their connections to each other.  Anjelica Huston works for the mob, going back and forth between racetracks and pumping her bosses’ money into various horse bets in order to lower the odds and decrease the necessary output. Her son (John Cusack) is a short-time grifter who does small-time deals to make money, mostly involving tricking bartenders and waitresses with the ways he can manipulate money. His girlfriend (Annette Bening) was once a specialist in the long-term grift, setting up huge scam operations that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for her and her cohorts, but now uses her body to get what she wants from people. How these three wheel and deal each other in an effort to survive makes for a fantastic viewing experience, one of the best acted and best directed films of its year and a highlight in Stephen Frears’ exceptional career as a filmmaker. The gorgeous photography manages to actually capture the look of film noir in colour instead of black and white, choosing red as a substitute for black and making it the colour whose gradations accentuate the look of every scene. Superbly adapted from the story by Jim Thompson.

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