Fool Me Twice
The Sting II Directed by Jeremy Kagen At the Sack 57 starting February 18
THE STING II bears virtually no resemblance to the original. so the use of that title to draw in the unsuspecting could be considered a fraud. The movie itself unquestionably constitutes a far greater crime. The film lacks not only the cast and characters of its predecessor, but even the slightest touch of the other's elusive quality which can only he described as class.
The original Sting was remarkable because it combined the most unlikely twists of plot with entirely plausible characters. At the close of the movie, when the Robert Redford and Paul Newman characters turn out only to be feigning death, the twist is a shock because those actors portray such genuine. killable men. The viewer believes he is watching real-world scenes in which such a tragedy could occur. The movie itself is a con game, the audience its victims, and everyone falls for it.
Sting II, in contrast, seems the work of slick amateurs. Self-confident and overbearing, the movie seems to proclaim continually that it is pulling a fast one. Warned, the viewer braces himself, and is neither entertained nor particularly surprised when, yes indeed, there turns out to be another layer to the plot. Since the movie never pretends to resemble real life, the constant uncovering of unbelievable connections is merely repetitious.
Sting II does adapt from the original and central characters of the criminal hero. Jake Hooker (Mac Davis), and his has-been mentor, Fargo Gondorff (Jackie Gleason). The first gag sets the tone of the movie, when Hooker rushes down to visit Gondorff in what had been described as "a big house with a yard," but is actually a state prison, It never improves.
Hooker and Gondorff set out to pull off an incomparable 'sting' whose unbelievability is matched only by its complexity. Their plan involves Hooker posing as a professional boxer in a real fight, but the duplicity of side-kick Veronica (Teri Garr) and the cunning of enemy Lonnegan (Oliver Reed) throw snags into the action. Lonnegan plans to alert their dangerous prey (Karl Malden) to the plot, and so dispose neatly of the pair. The viewer, impatient by the time this has all been explained, finds new amendments unremarkable.
THE FILM SUFFERS from extreme clutter. The writer, David Ward, crowds the picture with so many characters and incidents that all are slighted; not one has a chance to develop logically and completely. Gondorff and Hooker are supposed to be friends. Veronica and Hooker lovers, but since they're never allowed to spend any time together one really can't be sure. The film sacrifices the characters so completely to the caprices of the plot--substituting new intricacies of action for sustained dialogue--that no actor has a chance to rise above its general level.
The U-turns in the plot occur with mechanical regularity and at dizzying speed. The cheapening effect they produce is heightened by tired cliches--false hair which falls off, embarrassing its owner; the villain's stupid bodyguard who is anxious for bloody 'action': the blonde who turns out to be not so very dumb. And neither the direction nor the performance adds anything to make these standard gags more palatable.
The hallmark of the original Sting was its ragtime piano theme "The Entertainer," which sums up the irresistible devil-may-care attitude Newman and Redford brought to life. Though unbelievably canny, the characters in the original seemed extremely vulnerable; the risks they were taking appeared real. The sequel contains a multitude of tricks, but lacks the force to raise any of them to such reality. The background music for Sting II is appropriately the famous piano rag--mutilated in an adaptation.