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The Grifters (1990) Review

8 08 2011

Copyright 1990 Cineplex-Odeon Films

★ ★ ★

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started watching this movie, as I knew very little about it.  However, from what I knew, I thought that it would involve some kind of exciting heist or interesting plot line full of surprises.  In the end, it concluded with neither and was a bit of a non-climatic, unmemorable film.

John Cusack plays small-time con man Roy Dillon who has a visit from his estranged con mother from Baltimore, Lilly (Anjelica Huston).  Complicating matters between himself and his mother is his girlfriend, a sexually-charged ex large-time con accomplice, Myra Langtry (Annette Bening).  The film meanders around with several circumstances confronting each of the main characters: Roy gets hit in the stomach and almost dies which gives him a new lease on life, Lilly is found to be stealing from her mob boss and is sent on the run, and Myra wants to get back into large-time conning with Roy.  These complications all affect Roy in some form and, eventually, unravel his life.  All the characters are seedy in this film and, though it plays alright and keeps some form of interest, there is really no big pay-off in the finale.

I’ve never been a huge fan of any of these actors; honestly, the only one I can somewhat stand is Annette Bening, and that is only in certain roles.  Cusack plays his same laconic self and Huston has just never appealed to me whatsoever for no good reason.  I haven’t seen a lot of Stephen Frears’s movies, and won’t say that this was directed bad, but it just didn’t pay off script-wise for me.  Maybe some people will like the nostalgic feel or think there is something clever in the plot line that eluded me, but on the whole, this film just fell really flat.

Surprisingly, the movie was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Huston, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Bening, Best Director and Best Writing, for material based on another medium for Donald Westlake.  Though it won none of these awards, it must have been a pretty mundane year to even garner this many nominations.  But, then again, the Best Picture winner this year was Dances with Wolves, so that kind of sums it up for 1990.

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