The Grifters - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Grifters Reviews

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½ July 1, 2015
The title refers to con artists like Roy Dillon (Cusack), who makes a living palming dollar bills in bars, or Myra (Bening), the feisty drifter who tries to steer him to the big time after a petty scam lands him in hospital. But the most ruthlessly survivalist is Roy's mother Lily (Huston), employed by the Mob to work a 'playback' scam at racetracks, and liable to be beaten up or have a cigar stubbed out on her hand just to teach her a lesson. Lily is perceived as a woman of great tragedy, still possessed of the maternal instincts she needs to try to save her long-neglected son, imbued with a toughness that helps her overcome constant terror and loneliness, and sufficiently tainted by life to both desire and finally destroy her offspring. Donald Westlake's excellent screenplay does some justice to the starkness of Jim Thompson's novel; and Frears' direction never fails to grab the attention, even given the weaknesses of Cusack and Bening as the existentialist young love interest. Anjelica Huston is quite astonishing; as Thompson is a kind of dime-store Dostoievsky, so Huston's Myra seems straight from the pages of Euripides and Sophocles.
½ June 27, 2015
Huston, Cusack & Bening... were literally all on their "A" game with this film... definitely in my all time top 15, top 20.
½ June 18, 2015
Good performances and some stylish production, but the film's plot and concept feels paper-thin. I wanted the story to move forward and get more interesting, but it never really did. Missed opportunity.
½ May 22, 2015
A highly under rated and seemingly forgotten fantastic film from the late 90's. Stylistic, witty and exceptionally well made --- this entertaining film packs a punch of Shakespearean proportion. Anjelica Huston has never been better.
½ March 25, 2015
Dead end choices chosen sullenly by horrible people....other than that a real feel good story.
March 5, 2015
Boring, bland, and sad.
October 27, 2014
I liked this movie despite the fact that the 'grifting' is to a minimum and the exploration of the cons is but a few. It is almost as if the director has grifted the audience into watching grifters. The acting is spot on and the story line interesting. It is a lot more of character than plot and that in it of itself is reason enough to watch this film. A quick, fun movie with enough to feel but not enough to claim satisfaction.
½ September 29, 2014
This movie, despite being 2 hours long, could have easily been told in about 30 minutes. How this film got nominated for 4 Oscars, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, is downright baffling.

This movie takes way, way, way too long to set everything up and for the first half, it feels like it's rambling on, directionless, and with no idea where its going or how to get there... until the last half hour when the film seems to suddenly realize "Oh, right! We have a plot to go through!"

It's a bit of a shame considering the big three actors involved (John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, and Annette Bening) are all quite talented and do the best they can. Bening is far and away the film's MVP, and the only deserving Oscar nod the film got. She's just simply amazing. Cusack and Huston are pretty good, too, and considering how young Cusack was when he made this (Say Anything had come out a year before this film did), that's pretty impressive.

Aside from Bening, there's really only one other praiseworthy aspect of the film, and that's the score. Other than that, it's a mess.
August 31, 2014
Nice screenwriting, commendable performance from a young Cusack...
½ July 5, 2014
Sophisticated and enjoyable.
June 18, 2014
i to samo zato jer je John Cusack zgodan
May 17, 2014
I had been wanting to watch this for years, and I finally did and was disappointed. It's a good director in Frears and a strong cast, but the story didn't work for me and I hated the end, though I do suppose it made sense. This one wasn't for me.
May 5, 2014
It's the fun which you can already get out of a Stephen Frears movie.
April 11, 2014
This movie has a good script and an original storyline. The three leads are all excellent in this movie. The acting compliments the good screenplay. I would definitely recommend this film.
March 27, 2014
Good story. Anjelica Huston is great in it. The music is brilliant!
½ February 24, 2014
It's hard to say you love something as grim as The Grifters, but this is a fabulous movie. I had seen it many years ago and remembered virtually every scene, which should give you an idea of how much of an impression it made on me. The acting was fantastic, the pacing was superb, and the dialogue mores tough as nails. The basic story is about three grifters, an older woman, John Cusack's mother, played by Angelica Huston, a younger woman, played by Annette Bening, and a young man, played by Cusack. They're all in a sort of nether world between honest and evil, although a lot closer to evil than to honest. I won't go into the details, but if you haven't seen it before, it doesn't exactly have a happy ending.
½ February 17, 2014
Let's try to keep this review short and sweet, because I've already wasted two hours of my life on this piece of shit, so why spend any more time on it? The Grifters, based on the novel by the same name, is a boring, monotonously paced, and poorly-scripted load of manure that never even begins to make an effort to cohere into a film. Nearly everything about this movie is poorly done, from the lighting to the script to the acting to the direction. It's not a film that lends itself to being picked apart, because frankly I feel bored just thinking about it. And no, not because there aren't any spectacular action sequences. Just because it doesn't make the slightest effort to keep the audience in their seats.

The Grifters stars John Cusack as a hustler, Anjelica Huston as his estranged mother, and Annette Bening as his slut of a girlfriend. For a movie about cons, it takes a remarkable amount of time for the plot to cohere, and even when it does, nobody cares. Cusack, a strong actor, brings absolutely none of his charisma to his character, making him a flat and dull lead who is hard to make a connection with. He's no less arrogant or self-righteous than that people he swindles. Oh, and by the way, he only actually swindles two people in this movie, and absolutely fucks up one time. Which makes you wonder how he ended up with so much cash stored around his house.

The dialogue in this film is atrocious. I can only think that the director wanted to shoot for some kind of an avant-garde, neo-noir pop art kind of vibe, but it all comes across as forced and awkward. Cusack and Huston's scenes feel especially staged, and they spout off poorly conceived lines with all the subtlety of a chainsaw. They sound as if they've been plucked straight from a 1930s gangster flick, but when put in a world like the 1980s, everything feels jarringly out of place. The whole thing plays out like a far less intelligent, completely unintriguing version of American Hustle, which actually brought some stuff to the table with this concept. The Grifters, however, is for some reason content to wallow in its own lack of creativity and drag on for two hours, while its simplistic and yawn-inducing story could have been told in less than twenty minutes. Nearly the whole film feels like padding.

The camerawork is atrocious as well, showcasing some extremely awkward close-ups and dozens of scenes that aren't even lit properly. It's not just the cinematography that's poor; the costume design and sets are ugly as hell. Sure, the movie is trying to capture an era when wallpaper and bad carpeting filled our homes, cars looked like cardboard boxes on wheels, and bouffants were "in." But why couldn't the filmmakers showcase the better parts of the time? I'm not asking for idealism, but holy fuck, every scene in this movie looks washed-out and deliberately ugly.

Final Score for The Grifters: 3/10 stars. It features a strangely committed performance from Annette Bening, and the story (when it's actually present) is somewhat intriguing, but there is almost nothing recommendable about this flat, lifeless, and painful mess. If anything, it has taught me never to watch movies that my parents picked out. The movie is a chore to sit through, with all the charm and charisma of your great-aunt's condo complex. Unless you're in the mood for seeing John Cusack stare with his mouth open, I think it's safe to say that you can skip this one.
½ February 3, 2014
This is a strange movie to say the least. The positive is that you definitely get that noir feel in the movie and the soundtrack starts to grow on you. I also enjoyed the performances of Cusack, Huston and Bening. I thought they all did an excellent job. I personally hated the editing. Too fast of cuts, unnecessary cross fades. Ruined flow. Also, the movie takes a good 40 to 50 minutes to really get going, which is way too long. I started wondering out loud when it was going to get interesting. Not to mention the mob boss's name was bobo. Like what? Bobo? I'm scared of Bobo? Also, it's a little hard to follow the grifting schemes (Lilly and the horse track scheme, Bobo and the oranges). It was a little tough to figure that out, and unlike something like Wolf of Wall Street (which is a character study and therefore the importance is not on the illegal acts), this is not that. It is actually kind of important to understand some of these things. Also, I know there was this Oedipus complex I guess going on, but from how it was directed, it wasn't clear whether Lilly was Roy's actual mother, or maybe like an old lady he used to date, or what. I think that weakens that theme. Also, Roy doesn't necessarily have a real goal. He tells Lilly that he's out of the game, but obviously he's not, but you don't really know what he wants. Does he want Myra? Or Lilly? Or money? Not quite sure and it doesn't delve into this at all. The action does pick up in the second half of the movie and there are some great twists. Unfortunately, you had to slough through the first half to get there. Overall, I think I like it a little better now (as I have to rewatch parts and make a trailer of the film for editing class) but it's still a meh movie for me.
January 10, 2014
My question is... Why do critics like movies that have no plot, where not much happens and nothing really gets resolved?
January 6, 2014
3/5 Not as good as I remembered it being...the ending still packs a punch.
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