Annette Bening twists like a mink on a leash through Stephen Frears's adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel. This may be the perfect trope for the moral hysteria that coils around a mother, her son, and his girlfriend in this... more » slender but highly pleasurable neo-noir. Small in effect and local in scope, the film is about small-fry, attractive, bloodless con artists who view the world as neatly split between ropers and suckers, grifters and squares. "Grifter's got an irresistible urge to beat a guy that's wise," an old-timer tells Roy (John Cusack). And yet the three characters here--played by Angelica Huston, Cusack, and Bening--only beat the innocent: Lilly (Huston) gigs at the track for a mobster named Bobo, putting wads of cash on long-shot horses to even out the odds. Roy, her son, swindles citizens by dimes and degrees, flashing twenties at bars then paying for his beer with tens. His girlfriend, Myra (Bening), is hustling herself, her salad days as a long-con roper behind her. Theirs is a world of gut punches and smart lines, and the adrenaline these cheats and chiselers live by is palpable onscreen. But a larger canvas? Maybe it's there as a parallel universe. "What do you sell again?" Myra asks Roy, the matchbook salesman. "Self-confidence," he says, a wry allusion to the confidence game all three of them are playing. The movie boasts dazzling turns by Bening, Cusack, and especially Huston, whose mčre fatale breaks new ground for noir. --Lyall Bush« less
"Produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Stephen Frears, THE GRIFTERS is a winner. With three top actors, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening and John Cusack, Frears invites us to a non-stop ride to hell.Caught between his mother and his girl-friend, John Cusack will have a hard time to survive and become a man. You can almost touch the hate those two women feel for each other. Their last encounter is really a scene you will remember : set in Phoenix, in a motel, in a subtle variation of PSYCHO's first murder, it is a moment of great cinema.Cusack is outstanding as the gentle grifter, Frear's cinematography is first class and Anjelica has never been so devilish. No doubt about it, THE GRIFTERS is a masterpiece of the film noir genre.A DVD that bleeds."
J. Center | Wilmington, DE United States | 03/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've never been a John Cusack fan, but he's utterly riveting in the role of a coming-of-age grifter caught between two indelible women. Annette Bening, at least here, is a pure force of nature, a sexy tsunami overwhelming everything in her path. And Anjelica Huston??? Her entire career has been one splendid performance after another, and this is one of her finest. You simply cannot take your eyes off her. The interaction of these three is one of the best examples of ensemble acting outside of an Altman film. And the little subtleties around these three -- from the brilliant set piece of the orange scene to the almost-identical dresses worn by Lily and Myra to Elmer Bernstein's moody score -- make The Grifters a compelling experience. The only disappointment is that the CD has NO extras at all, but you could certainly make the case that this is a movie that can stand completely on its own."
Nice Special Edition of a great movie
TheBandit | SEA-TAC | 01/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A fantastic movie about con artists. The tone of this movie is perfect: utterly unsentimental, deadpan, cool and calculated. Great score, great performances (not just the three leads, there are tons of bit parts that are very memorable), great dialogue. The pacing is snappy. I'm not going to say the movie is flawless, but honestly I can't think of anything particularly negative to say about it.The DVD is a modest collector's edition. Some may say the extra features are a bit spare, but what is here is very useful and informative. The commentary track is consistantly listenable. There are four participants: the director, the screenwriter, and stars Cusack and Huston. The four were recorded separately and edited together seamlessly to make an entertaining and insightful track. Also here are two short but well-made featurettes, one covers the making of the film and the other sheds some light on the work of the author who wrote the book upon which the film is based."
Perhaps the best of the 90s genre
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 07/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps this was the best directorial accomplishment for Stephen Frears. Perhaps it was the roles of a lifetime for Huston, Cusack and Bening. Perhaps, no definitely, it was the best crime film of its time.
THE GRIFTERS... I won't go into the plot. Other reviewers have done enough. But it does poke at some old questions. Is there honor among thieves? No, not really. But can there be respect? Yes, I think the film brings that out. What about love? Ooof! That's a tough one.
IF you've seen the movie, and liked it, the commentaries are wonderful. But even more important is the glimpse at the life of Jim Thompson whose novel inspired the film. The making of THE GRIFTERS is equally intriguing. I'm no grifter, although at times I wish I were... But still, trust me, this Collector's Series is worth the reasonable price."
Great Pulp Fiction
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 12/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Grifters" is a great realization of writer Jim Thompson's pulp novel to the screen. Kudos to director Stephen Frears and Donald Westlake's screenplay for translating this work to the screen. The film concerns itself with a trio of con artists but the mark this time is the soul of one of these combatants. Lily(Anjelica Huston) has been at this game practically from the womb but she discourages her son, Roy(John Cusack), from the grift. Roy's current squeeze, Myra(Annette Bening) has different plans for him. Myra has done the big con and she sees Roy as her meal ticket to easy street. Huston has never been better as the grifter with questionable maternal instincts. Bening superficial sweetness betrays an interior of larceny. Roy, though he does not have the stomach for the big grift, is not blind to the machinations of Lily and Myra. Cusack does an excellent job showing bemusement as these two mother hens fight over him. "The Grifters" has enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. It's inevitable conclusion is so shocking that I dare not reveal it here. Just marvel at some very talented artists that are on the top of their game."