The Grifters (1990) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality/nudity, and some strong violence
Running Time: 110 min.
Cast: Angelica Huston, John Cusack, Annette Bening, Jan Munroe, Robert Weems
Director: Stephen Frears
Screenplay: Donald E. Westlake (based on the novel by Jim Thompson)
Review published May 9, 1997
An older woman (Huston, Crimes and Misdemeanors) works for a powerful bookie, a younger woman (Bening, The American President) seduces her way through life, while a young man (Cusack, Say Anything) uses sleight of hand to nickel and dime a living for himself. Other than the fact that they are all on the grift, they are also a mother, son and girlfriend. Their lives cross, but it becomes more of a double-cross as they can't trust each other.
A well-acted and absorbing modern film noir, taken from the gritty Jim Thompson novel which was adapted into a screenplay by modern crime writer Donald Westlake (Payback, The Stepfather). The characters are complex, situations authentic and while the point of the film seems enigmatic, it still remains fascinating.
It probably could have been better, with an overall awkwardness in the directorial style and choice of music (Elmer Bernstein doing 40s noir in modern terms) tend to keep the going on in something less than gripping terms. Overrated by critics and overlooked by the mass audience, it's worthwhile entertainment fans of film noir and crime dramas.
©1997 Vince Leo