The Cheat - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Cheat Reviews

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½ November 29, 2015
A High Society woman gets into SUCH a mess when she bets the 10,000 dollars she has been entrusted with (for the Red Cross!) into the stock market, and she needs to get the money somehow, so she turns to her friend, an Asian Salesman, who has his own ideas.

I liked this movie a lot, because I was really amazed at the treatment Hollywood gave to the Asian character. He was treated very humanely and I guess the whole Evil-Asian propaganda thing hadn't quite kicked in yet in Hollywood. Instead, Hollywood was turning stuff out like this and, another great example, Broken Blossoms, with Lillian Gish. The Asian actor, Sessue Hayakawa does SUCH a great job here, shining every scene he's in. Hayakawa amazingly, later on went on to appear in Bridge On The River Kwai with Alec Guinness!!
½ September 11, 2015
In my film history class, this was the second close-to-feature-length film we watched, the first being Sherlock Jr. This was also the first film to have quite a complex plot compared to other films that came out in that era of film. I found myself constantly asking questions even though the film captured the idea of pure cinema very well - the idea that you should be able to understand a film purely based on the images without the help of dialogue.

Before I comment on the positive aspects of this film, let's look at how this film can be regarded as racist. Since this is American cinema in its early years, most of the cast and background characters are played by white men and women. The main villain of the film happens to be Asian, as well as the villain's two sidekicks. He is labeled something along the lines of the king of ivory for the region. It just seems out of place that the only foreigners in this film happen to be the villains of the film, depicted as sneaky, conniving businessmen hungry for power and sex. The only Asians in the film, and they are depicted as monsters, and the activities these men engage themselves in definitely does not reflect the behaviors of all Asians at the time when this film was released. This film is very close to straight up chastising Asians; not okay.

This next point could be because I was zoning in and out the day we were watching it, but I was constantly asking myself questions about the narrative since it was a little complex while focusing on money as what would later be called a MacGuffin. We also have more characterization even if it is just from title cards which we have to read dialogue from. The leading lady is a gold digger, spending money she doesn't have and using a large donation for her personal needs. Her husband is a passive man and a hero, letting people (including his wife) push him around but having a kind heart when he takes the blame for a crime his wife had committed. Sadly we don't get that much character knowledge about the villain aside from the fact that he doesn't like to be cheated, and that he'll make things worse for the lady and her husband simply because he can.

I praise this film for exploring great concepts of lighting as well as using more depth with the cinematic space compared to films by Melies, whose films seem very two-dimensional (although they're not exactly narratives like The Cheat). The Cheat is definitely a film you should see if you want to study film, filmmaking, learn about film history, etc etc.
½ August 24, 2015
The Cheat is a terrific film. It is incredibly well directed, wonderfully shot and it has some scenes that are immensely powerful and even horrific, but it is above all perfectly melodramatic and entertaining, it has excellent characters, the acting is marvelous and the story is very well crafted. It has its flaws including its too fast-paced nature and an unfortunately contrived ending, but it is mostly a phenomenal film that for a century-old movie aged like fine wine, still being powerful and entertaining, and it is one of the best films of the period.
½ January 10, 2015
A well-acted, engaging film.
November 24, 2014
Considering the time in which this film was made, it's quite revolutionary, both on its subject matter and its cast. While it might seem a bit over-exaggerated now, the theme remains the same: a lust for money is a dangerous sin.
½ August 23, 2013
It's racial and gender politics have not aged well at all, but as an early work from Cecil B. DeMille, it has enough great direction (even beyond the "Rembrandt lighting") to let you know how good he could be beyond the bombast.
November 20, 2012
remade in title only in 1931 starring tallulah bankhead
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2011
I loved this movie, it mixes the romance, thriller, and drama genres, sort of like a film noir, but much earlier. There are a lot of cool editing techniques used skillfully too. And I loved the ending. I highly recommend this movie, it's the best movie I've seen from the 1910s so far.
September 30, 2011
Nice Use Of Shadows And Some Surprising Thematic Elements.
April 7, 2011
Can't say that I'm really a fan of silent movies but this one was pretty good. I thought the lighting was fantastic.
February 11, 2011
I think it's funny that Hayakawa is the only person here with an image with his cast listing as this was to be a Fannie Ward film but Hayakawa was the star! Maybe if she didn't overact so much! Yes it was the Silent era and yes it was 1915, but still she was so funny because she was so bad! In truth the best part was Hayakawa. Otherwise, while the film was more memorable from others in this class, it was just okay. Everything was well done, but the overacting! Yeesh!
½ November 4, 2010
Not bad for a [silent] movie filmed in 1915! It was interesting to see an Asian actor featured with such a crucial role in the plot, of course he was an antagonist at the end, but still. I loved the outrageous expressions Fannie Ward displayed in her scenes, very entertaining!
October 7, 2010
This film doesn't hold up particularly well. While the cinematography and lighting is quite modern in style, the plot is too dated. It's not even really the plot, but the ending comes across as contrived, overly dramatic and a touch racist. While Hayakawa gives a wonderful performance, his sneer is fabulous, with what he's given to work with, the overall effect of the film comes across as the whites triumph over the evil Asians, which leaves a bad taste for a modern audience.
September 21, 2010
Definitely a piece of film history, but also a piece of interminable shit.
½ May 31, 2010
A sensation in its day, now more of a historical curiosity.
½ May 18, 2010
God the woman was retarded. And I don't think asians are sexy... no offense.
½ April 28, 2010
I actually saw the 1918 version in which the Japanese character was changed to a Burmese one. For DeMille fans, this is a "must see" as his innovative lighting and camera work are showcased in this film. Viewers unused to the acting style of very early film stars will probably view Hardy's melodramtic moves as over the top, but, historically, they are the last vestiges of this style of acting as silent films advanced in both their use of technology and more subtle dramatic interpretations of emotions. Those interested in social issues of the day will pick up on the obvious racial stereotyping as well as the shallowness and immorality of some of those in "high society."
January 12, 2010
Edith Hardy(Fannie Ward), an extravagant sort of girl, gambles away the red cross fund on the stockmarket and finds herself in debt to a sadistic and stereotypical asian aristocrat. Well staged but the story is so dated and racist with a main character that is so unlikable that it's hard to stick with her.
October 20, 2009
Interesting to see how Fannie Ward's character developed into unwilling victim of the eeeevil foreigner in the end, despite the fact that she was singlehandedly responsible for the entire sordid turn of events. can't say I loved it, more of a film history lesson.
October 19, 2009
Fannie Ward plays Edith Hardy a free-wheeling, fun-loving, but ultimately irresponsible, wife to Richard Hardy played by Jack Dean. Fannie loves to spend money and party it up with New York's swinging socialite circle like there's no tomorrow. Although Richard loves his wife dearly he decides he needs to curtail her wild spending lest they lose their fortune and drastically cuts down her spending allowance. While attending one of her big social gatherings, an associate informs her of a sure thing investment in which any money put in will surely double the very next day!

As treasurer of the local Red Cross Edith is entrusted with all of their funds at which point they have $10,000 readied to be presented to the national organization at the next gathering. I think you can see where this is going as sure enough, Edith takes the money and give it to her friend. As if on cue, during the very next social party the friend arrives despondent and informs her that the company has collapsed and all the money is lost. Edith panics and eventually collapsed.

Fortunately, or rather most unfortunately for Edith, at the time this news arrives she is being romanced by a rich Japanese ivory trader named Tori played by the legendary Sessue Hayakawa. Tori is a major power player in the upper ranks of the rich elite in New York and he has serious designs on Edith. He uses this opportunity to pressure Edith into having an elicit affair with him if he pays off her debt and avoids the massive social embarrassment that would ensue if the news would become public. Edith, who initially was very entranced by Tori, now senses great menace but reluctantly agrees.

Edith returns home feeling rather empty and lifeless. Her husband bursts in and informs her that all of his investments have paid off big time and not only are they now very well off, but they are incredibly rich. Edith is at first elated but then the memory of the incident plays upon her mind and she falls back saddened. Her husband takes obvious note of this reaction and Edith quickly makes up a story about losing $10,000 in a bridge game. Her husband is suspicious but gives his wife the a check to cover the amount.

Edith later sneaks out of the house and meets up with Tori at his house. Tori has been calling her repeatedly wondering why she hasn't come over and Edith hopes that she can simply pay Tori the money and end the deal. Unfortunately for her Tori rejects the attempt at a pay off and labels Edith a cheat and a liar. What follows next is a very brutal fight as Tori throws Edith around and slams her down onto his desk. He pulls her hair and rips the back of her dress down and then brands her with a hot signature iron that he uses to mark his belongings. As far as he is concerned he has marked her with his symbol and she is now his.

Edith fight off the pain and manages to break away from Tori. She gets a hold of his gun and shoots him in the shoulder. She makes her escape just as her husband arrives who, suspicious as to what his wife's motivations truly are, has just arrived onto the scene. Richard Hardy immediate assesses the scene up and decides to take the fall for his wife when the police arrive. Tori goes along with this as it would mean Richard would be out of the way.

A rather quick but intense court scene ensues in which Richard admits that he shot Tori but refuses to divulge the reason why. The confused jury finally decides to convict him when Edith can take no more and rushes the judges podium. Despite the efforts of the police to quell her, Edith emotionally yells out what really happened that fateful night and to prove her point she pulls down her dress to reveal the brand that Tori inflicted upon her. The courtroom crowd can take no more and angrily rushes the judges podium demanding justice while the police attempt to hold them at bay. The judge throws out the ruling and the Edith and Richard are free to go.

A very early film whose techniques and attention to detail really belies its age. A technical triumph despite its rather mundane settings this film really demonstrates how good a director Demille would turn out to be with some excellent use of shadows and lighting. Then there's the incredible presence of Hayakawa. Although a very early film, Hayakawa quite obviously out acts everybody by actually bringing brooding subtlety to the screen as opposed to the more manic motions and overacting by his co-stars typified in early silent films. In a interview Hayakawa admitted that he tried not to express too openly his emotions but instead intensely thought them. This is really noticeable whenever he is on screen and his presence is quite powerful.

There has also been some labeling of this films having strongly racist overtones. As somebody who has watched a decent amount of early films I really just don't see it. Sure Hayakawa is the menacing villain, but his race is never an equation in the film and doesn't even come up as an issue by anybody in the movie. He is initially shown as an accepted member of the rich elite social circle and people are very much charmed by him. I've seen a number of early murder mystery pictures that I find you could have easily replaced Hayakawa with any typical caucasian actor and the plot and reaction by everybody would be the same. Of course you would be deprived of the great acting by Hayakawa.

But due strong protests by the Japanese government, later prints were changed to identify Hayakawa's character as Haka Arakau, a ivory trader of Burmese descent. But again, race is not really an issue here as it's all about the character to no matter how one labels Hayakawa's character, he's still the same person you see on screen.

An artistically interesting film with some strong acting by Hayakawa who sets the tone for future actors and how they will approach their craft.
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