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For, Friday, May 15, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lacking the original film’s stars and director, but with a script by the Oscar-winning writer of the first film, ‘The Sting II’ isn’t the disaster it could have been and outside the shadow of the Newman-Redford classic, it’s not as bad as critics have noted. But, of course, it also doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor. My review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 25, 1983, and now the film is on Blu-ray, courtesty of Kino Lorber.

OK, so they’re working under a handicap. Despite their taking the same characters in “The Sting II,” Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis are no Paul Newman and Robert Redford. But that’s OK; “The Sting II” is no “The Sting.”

However — and this is a pretty big however — there is some fun to be had here if you can get past the Newman-Redford thing. And though I was able to figure some of the twists before they happened. I didn’t get them all, and it was fun going along with this fast-paced, often humorous sequel to the enormously popular original.

Again, this is nowhere near the first film, in terms of humor, style or charm, but on its own it’s not bad.

Gleason plays Fargo Gondorff and Davis is Jake Hooker, the roles played by Newman and Redford in the original film, and their nemesis, Lonnegan, played in the first film by the late Robert Shaw, is now Oliver Reed.


Without giving too much away, the story this time has Lonnegan getting vengeance on Gondorff and Hooker by murdering a friend and making it look like a new high-rolling hood in town has done it, an uncouth slob named Macalinski (Karl Malden).

So Gondorff and Hooker decide to “sting” Macalinski by conning him with a rigged boxing match, using Hooker as the boxer.

The plot thickens, of course, and it gets very thick indeed, with twists at every turn and turns at every twist. That in itself becomes predictable sometimes but for the most part “The Sting II” is fun, and director Jeremy Paul Kagan (“The Chosen”) keeps the action moving at a furious clip so it’s hard to think too long about what’s going on before something else is going on already.

Gleason is obviously enjoying himself in the Gondorff role, and his good time becomes infectious. It’s probably the best film role he’s had since the original “Smokey and the Bandit,” which may or may not be a compliment — but he handles himself quite well here. (Much better than the walk-through he did in “The Toy.”)


Malden and Reed also seem to be having fun, making them enjoyable additions, but Mac Davis is rather lethargic, blowing holes in the promise he showed with “North Dallas 40” a few years ago.

The really bright spot in “The Sting II,” however, is Teri Garr, as another con artist picked up by Davis. She gets a chance to display her versatility and brings this film to life when it threatens to slow down.

Garr is tremendously talented and deserves better than the third-string roles she has had to settle for up to now — though she has also shined in those films, like “Tootsie,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Oh, God!”

Rated PG for profanity and some boxing-ring violence, “The Sting II” won’t win the awards its predecessor enjoyed but it’s nice entertainment for an evening out.