One of the world’s most popular screenwriting books, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat has brought clarity and a sense of direction to thousands of screenwriters, many of whom were looking for the logical extension of Syd Field’s work.
If you’re not familiar with it, the book delivered a structural screenwriting roadmap: not quite a full-blown join-the-dots guidebook, but in some ways, close.
With fully 15 story beats to hit over 90-120 pages Save the Cat gave writers both a well-lit pathway through those dark narrative woods and a way to quickly filter out the stories worth developing to full screenplay stage.
But how well do the theories hold up?
In Blake’s 2nd book, Save the Cat Goes to The Movies, he attempted to firm up and solidify his thesis, by analyzing various classic films.
And whilst this analysis proved for the most part effective, the doubters (largely, let’s face it, from the independent-slash-art-house sector of the industry) remain…
So whilst Snyder’s greatest gift to screenwriters probably remains the pithy maxim “give me the same, just different”, here at Industrial Scripts we thought we’d really stress-test the theories, against a range of films of varying quality.
“The pithy ‘give me the same just different’ remains Snyder’s greatest gift to screenwriters…”
If you’d like to view all the articles in our Save the Cat Analysis Series please do so at the link, and simply read on for the next instalment in the series!
Save the Cat Analysis Series #5: THE STING (1973)
FILM: THE STING (1973)
STORY TYPE: “Buddy Love”
NOTES: This is an excellent film which, tonally at least, gets it absolutely spot on. There’s generally a light, playful atmosphere to proceedings, but it’s quite impressive that when the film does need to get serious, it does so effectively (the way Lonnegan is built up as a genuinely imposing antagonist via second-hand description is particularly impressive). As far as Snyder’s theories go, despite all the complex double-crossing and generally labyrinthine plotting, his theories are, to a point, endorsed here. As ever, the Bad Guys Close In-Dark Night of the Soul-Break into Act Three triumvirate cause some trouble, but there’s a very strong Catalyst moment and, for once, the B Story romance is well-placed. A strange Set-Up sequence and some other beats that only partially endorse Snyder’s theories, don’t make this the most Snyderian film we’ve come across. The massive star charisma of Newman and Redford, and some inventive tricks and cons, more than compensate, however.
Save the Cat Analysis: THE STING
- Opening Image (p. 1)
– Opening image: the film begins with an unfolding storybook featuring some key characters and scenes from the story to come, and the credits roll. This is an unusual and playful way for the film to begin and, as Snyder suggests, it gives a good impression of what the film is going to be like – “its tone, its mood, the type and scope of the film”. A Snyderian beat in this sense then, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say that the Opening and Final images are opposites, though.
- Theme Stated (p. 5)
– Six minutes in, and Lonnegan’s runner reassures Luther that he’ll make his drop for him. “Don’t worry old man, you can trust me”, lies the runner, before scarpering with the money. THE STING is all about falsehoods, no-one can be trusted, the film itself can’t even be trusted (we think we’re completely in on the con, but then find that we’ve even been mislead) and this notion that everyone is trying to pass themselves off as trustworthy is the key thematic premise. This moment also fulfils Snyder’s criteria in the sense that it poses a question – can we trust anyone in this movie? The fact that Lonnegan’s runner steals the cash, only to find himself conned by Johnny and Luther, suggest that we can’t.
- Set-Up (p. 1 – 10)
– This sequence “sets up the hero, the stakes and goal of the story…and does so with vigor!” argues Snyder, but although THE STING establishes the hero, Johnny Hooker, it doesn’t really establish the stakes, or indeed many of the key secondary characters. It tells us a fair bit about Hooker himself however – his skill at cons, his warmth and affection (he takes his girl Crystal out), and also his recklessness (he gambles a lot of the money away). Overall though, this doesn’t feel like a particularly Snyderian Set-Up – it’s too slow-burn for that
- Catalyst (p. 12)
– The Catalyst moment actually arrives very late here, 22 minutes in, when Luther is murdered by Lonnegan’s goons. At its most basic level THE STING is a revenge movie, and this moment incites Johnny to put in motion “The Sting” itself. However, it does arrive very late, which wouldn’t impress Snyder.
- Debate (p. 12 – 25)
– All great Catalyst moments provoke the “what’s the hero going to do as a result of this?” response in audiences, and this is certainly true of THE STING. What’s Johnny going to do to hit back against Lonnegan? We know he’s fiery and isn’t going to take the murder of his mentor lying down, so what’s he going to do next? There’s certainly a Debate feeling, of sorts, but ultimately Hooker is probably to clearly out for revenge for this to have the level of “will he won’t he” that Snyder looks for in stories.
- Break into Act Two (p. 25)
– Of course, it’s possible to argue that Luther’s death is actually the Break Into Act Two moment, come early, simply because it’s such a “big” event. However I’d argue that Johnny’s introduction to Henry – and his world – is this beat. This is a significant event, because it’s Johnny’s entry into Henry’s world, the world of the big con rather than the petty, small-time one. It’s also the crucial relationship in the film, the crucial meeting of minds, which informs everything that follows. They first meet 25 minutes in, precisely as Snyder suggests.
- B Story (p. 30)
– “The B Story of most screenplays is ‘the love story’, and it is also the story that carries the theme of the movie”, writes Snyder. Although it isn’t quite at BUTCH & SUNDANCE levels, the story-type here is undoubtedly Buddy Love, and with Johnny and Hooker’s introduction so begins the key love story of the movie. It’s interesting to note that this sequence kicks off with a makeover montage, as Johnny goes to the barbers, gets a new suit and even has a manicure, all under the amused, watchful eye of Henry. Whether the B Story quite carries the theme of the movie, as Snyder suggests, is dubious however. As described above, the key theme of this film is deception, but there isn’t much deception on show in the B Story in THE STING. Overall then, a B Story that endorses some of Snyder’s theories, and doesn’t others.
- Fun and Games (p. 30 – 55)
– Strangely for a Fun and Games section, the sequence here actually opens with a rather sombre assessment of how the men are going to “sting” Lonnegan. This is an effective series of scenes in many ways, as it sets up the antagonist in particularly intimidating terms – this, really, should appear in the opening 10 minutes, as it represents the “stakes” of the story. Having said this, the “promise of the premise” in a con movie like this is to see the con being put together (this is also true of the heist movie and the “assault” movie, in which a crack team put together a plan to storm a castle etc.), and we do see this process during this sequence. We also see a mini-con in progress, as Henry beats Lonnegan at cards, and has fun acting like he’s drunk. Overall then, this doesn’t feel like the most likely Fun and Games section ever, but it certainly fulfils some of the criteria.
- Midpoint (p. 55)
– 57 minutes in and Henry beats Lonnegan at cards, Lonnegan then can’t pay up due to Billie lifting his wallet, and “the mark” has officially been engaged, and the con is on. This is a very positive “up” moment for Henry and Johnny, and it’s also worth noting that the stakes are raised here. Now that they’ve started toying with Lonnegan, they’ve basically crossed the point of no return, because we know from his reputation (discussed at length during “Fun and Games”) that he’s absolutely ruthless, and that he’ll kill them without hesitation. Overall, perhaps not the “biggest” Midpoint beat we’ve encountered, but a solid, Snyderian one nonetheless.
- Bad Guys Close In (p. 55 -75)
– This sequence begins with a clear message of physical threat. Johnny returns to his apartment after the train ride with Lonnegan (after which, it’s worth noting, Johnny sits in the back of a car sandwiched between Lonnegan and his main goon), and finds the piece of paper he stuck in the door earlier (a clear call-back) no longer there. He’s then shot at by two of Lonnegan’s goons, and has to escape on the side of a moving vehicle. Snyder’s also hot on Johnny’s heels during this sequence, and overall there’s certainly some vague sense of the Bad Guys Closing In on Johnny, in particular. The closest Henry and Johnny come to a serious disagreement also occurs in this sequence, when Johnny reveals that Snyder is after him, and so are Lonnegan’s goons.
- All is Lost (p. 75)
– There’s no real sign of an All is Lost moment until late on in THE STING, around 98 minutes in, when Johnny is caught by Snyder and hauled in front of the FBI, who force him into agreeing to trap Henry. There isn’t any sign of Snyder’s favourite Whiff of Death moment here, but there’s enough of them elsewhere – only moments earlier Johnny appears trapped by Salino but then is saved by Henry’s watchman. Overall then, this moment feels like it ticks Snyder’s boxes, as we’re convinced Johnny is going to have to betray Henry.
- Dark Night of The Soul (p. 75 – 85)
– An appropriately depressing, tense sequence follows, as Henry and Johnny play cards, but Johnny’s mind is elsewhere. It’s also a melancholy, reflective sequence, as Henry remembers his 30 years in “grifting”, and seems to suggest that it hasn’t got him anywhere. We also realise how lonely Johnny is here, as he tells Loretta that he knows no-one. Obviously the whole sequence is underpinned by our assumption that Johnny is going to screw Henry over shortly, and so there’s certainly a sense of sadness and betrayal here, although this doesn’t quite qualify for full-on, “darkness before the dawn” territory. Snyderian, but not that Snyderian.
- Break into Act Three (p. 85)
– Probably the least Snyderian beat in the film as the con simply goes ahead as planned. There’s no great “solution” found by Johnny, and although it’s arguable that A and B stories fuse here (as Henry saves Johnny’s life by getting his man to keep an eye on him), they do so right at the end, when it’s revealed that Johnny was never going to screw Henry over. The only vague sense of Snyder in the beat is that it’s clearly earmarked by a title card – “The Sting” – and that from a purely structural point of view, it does feel like a clear story break, as we move into the big final set-piece.
- Finale (p. 85 – 110)
– Another sequence which doesn’t really match Snyder’s definition of it. Johnny and Henry don’t “apply the lessons they’ve learnt” – they were always ahead of the game anyway, they didn’t have anything to learn in the first place. There’s also no evidence of them “changing the world”, as Snyder insists they must, and although this is certainly a satisfying conclusion to the movie, it doesn’t necessarily feel very in keeping with Snyder’s mantras.
- Final Image (p. 110)
– Final image: Henry and Johnny walking off down the alley together. As suggested, this is certainly a happy, uplifting ending, but then again so was the opening. They’re certainly not opposites, as Snyder suggests they should be.
Scene-by-Scene Breakdown: THE STING (1973)
- Opening image: the film begins with an unfolding storybook featuring some key characters and scenes from the story to come, and the credits roll. We’re introduced to HENRY GONDORFF (Paul Newman), JOHNNY HOOKER (Robert Redford), DOYLE LONNEGAN (Robert Shaw), LT. WM. SNYDER (Charles Durning), JJ SINGLETON (Ray Walston), BILLIE (Ellen Brennan), KID TWIST (Harold Gould), EDDIE NILES (John Heffernan), FBI AGENT POLK (Dana Elcar), ERIE KID (Jack Kehoe), and DIMITRA ARLISS (Loretta). Credit sequence ends with a scene-setting title card telling us we’re in Joliet, Illinois and it’s September 1936.
- We see a low shot of someone’s feet moving down the street then up some stairs.
- We follow the man into a gambling den, and we see two men called GRANGER (Ed Bakey) and COLE (Brad Sullivan) discussing how the rackets have had a little trouble with the law recently. They also discuss how much money they’ve both brought in that week, and how happy the boss is going to be about it. Cole tells Granger that his district is very much bringing up the rear in the district leagues. Granger gets off the phone and gives an envelope to the man who we followed in, and instructs him to deliver it somewhere.
- We follow the man out of the building, and then see Johnny Hooker approaching from the other side of the street. As the carrier comes down the stairs he sees LUTHER (Robert Earl Jones) – a shopkeeper – pursuing a thief, accusing him of stealing his money. Luther shouts at the carrier to stop him, but in the end it takes Johnny to stop the thief from getting away with the money (although the thief gets away, Johnny does get Luther’s wallet back). After the thief has gone, Johnny attends to Luther, along with the carrier. Johnny tells Luther that he needs to get to the hospital for a knife wound, but the man doesn’t want to involve the authorities, and explains that he got a little behind in some payments he owes to the mob, and he says that he has until 4pm, to get them what he owes them, or he’s dead. Johnny points out that it’s almost 4pm now, and Luther offers Johnny and the carrier $100 to deliver the money for him, because there’s no way he’ll get there in time on his dodgy leg. Johnny refuses to deliver the money, reasoning that he doesn’t want to walk into a knife fight, but the carrier is happy to do the job for the $100. Luther then gives the carrier $5000 in an envelope, and $100 for himself. As the carrier walks off, Johnny points out that if some goons stop him he isn’t going to get very far hiding the money in his inside pocket. Johnny suggests that they hide in the money in a handkerchief, and then produces one and invites the man to begin stuffing the money into it. Johnny shows the man how to stuff the envelope down into his trousers, and then pulls the envelope out again. “They ain’t a tough guy in the world who’s going to frisk you there”, says Johnny. The carrier heads off and gets into a cab, and asks the driver to drive him in the opposite direction to where the carrier told him to go. It’s obvious he’s making a run for it with the money.
- The cab drives away and the carrier cackles away in the back. “What’s so funny?” the cabbie asks, and the man replies: “I just made the world’s easiest five grand!” He pulls the envelope out of his trousers, and finds a wad of paper instead of the money he was expecting. He’s furious.
- Cut to Johnny and Luther running off along the railway tracks. They duck inside a hallway and Johnny pulls out the envelope he stole from the man, and is flabbergasted by how much money is in there. Elated, the two men go their separate ways.
- We see Johnny gleefully spending his winnings on a new suit, and then going into a cabaret show. LEONARD, the man on the door, asks Hooker whether he’s “getting married or something” and Hooker tells Leonard to “get used to the new look – I’ll be looking this good from now on”. Hooker goes backstage and says hello to his girl CRYSTAL (Sally Kirkland) who repeats Leonard’s question from earlier: “you getting married or something?” As soon as she’s offstage, Crystal starts berating the sound man, but Johnny takes her to one side and tells her that he’s come into some money, and that he’d like to take her out later. She replies that she’s back onstage later and needs the $5, but Johnny replies that he’s willing to spend $50 on her. This wins her over, and they head off.
- They head into a gambling establishment, and Johnny puts $3k down on the red. The croupier says that he can’t accept a bid that high, but then an imposing figure steps out of the shadows and tells him to take it. The wheel spins and Johnny reaches under the table to do something to affect the odds, but to his horror the ball lands on black. Crystal goes crazy, but Johnny is philosophical, reasoning: “there’s plenty more where that came from”.
- Crystal and Johnny leave the club, and she’s so furious with him that she storms off.
- Cut to the mob’s headquarters, where one man tells another about what happened earlier – about how their man was conned out of the $11k by Johnny and the shopkeeper. The boss says that he’ll get on the phone to the big boss, and see what he wants to do.
- Cut to an elite gambling den, full of men in black tie. We see one mobster go over to the boss, who doesn’t want to be disturbed. The man says it’s important though, and tells him that they had “a little bit of trouble in Chicago today…one of our runners got hit for $11k…he was cleaned by two grifters”. “Have some local people take care of them…nothing fancy”, instructs the boss.
- Cut to Johnny going round to Luther’s, where he’s warmly greeted by Luther and his family. The reception is warm, at least, until Luther learns that Johnny lost so much money. “You’re a conman, but you blew it like a pimp”, says Luther. “You think my play is bad?” asks Johnny, but Luther replies: “I think you’re the best…I wouldn’t be getting out otherwise, I’m getting too old for this racket, you hang on too long you start embarrassing yourself”. Johnny retorts that they made the biggest score they ever have that day, and Luther replies that it’s nothing compared with the money they could be making on “the big con”. “But you played the big con”, Johnny replies, “it’s some dumb game for momma’s boys and flakes”. Luther replies that he never actually played the big con – no one would trust him enough due to his skin colour. “But I’ve been looking for this one (ie. the con they pulled that day) my whole life, and now I’ve got a chance to step out whilst I’m still ahead”, Luther replies. Luther then tells Johnny about an old friend of his in Chicago – Henry Gondorff – who he wants Johnny to look up. “There ain’t a better inside man alive…he’ll teach you all you gotta know”, says Luther about Henry. Johnny tries to persuade Luther otherwise, but his mind’s made up.
- Johnny walks down the street with his other con associate, who reminds Johnny that there’s a depression on. “If you saved a bit maybe you wouldn’t have to grift so much”, says his man but Johnny replies: “I like grifting”. Suddenly a car screeches out of nowhere and Snyder gets out, and pursues Johnny until he has him up against a wall. Johnny utters a series of sarcastic wise-cracks, denying that he was responsible for the con earlier, until Snyder punches him. Snyder tells Johnny that his scam “would have been perfect” if the guy he ripped off hadn’t been a “numbers runner” for Doyle Lonnegan. Snyder tells him that he can finger Johnny for this and have him “crushed” by Lonnegan, unless Johnny pays him $2k. Johnny reluctantly reaches into his pocket and produces some money, which Snyder snatches. “You’re a smart egg Hooker, no use getting dead over $2k”, he tells him. After Snyder’s gone, his associate says to Johnny that he thought he spent all his money. “I did, the stuff I gave him is counterfeit, they’ll spot it the first place he tries to spend it”, he says. As soon as Snyder’s car has gone round the corner, Johnny hares off in the opposite direction, pursued by his associate.
- Johnny crashes into a store, and hauls a woman out of the phone booth. He tries to phone Luther with no success, and exits the store in a hurry.
- Johnny sprints over to Luther’s place, but enters to find it trashed, and Luther lying in a pool of blood on the street below.
- Cut to Luther, with people standing over him muttering about “a big fight” and “somebody must’ve pushed him”. Johnny examines the body in horror, and then his wife shows up and begins wailing and crying. The police then arrive, and Johnny scarpers just in time…
- Title card reading “The Set Up”.
- Establishing shot of Chicago.
- Johnny arrives at an apartment looking for Henry Gondorff. Billie tells him that she hasn’t seen him, and Johnny checks the address and asks her if she’s sure. She tells him to beat it but then he tells her who sent him, and she’s immediately welcoming, and admits that they heard about Luther last night.
- Billie leads him downstairs, through a room with a merry go round inside.
- Johnny goes into a backdoor room, and initially can’t see anyone, until he hears faint snoring. He looks down the side of the bed, and sees Henry lying asleep with his face plastered up against the wall. “The great Henry Gondorff”, says Johnny.
- Cut to the bathroom, where Johnny has Henry sitting in the tub, fully clothed, with his head under the shower. “You sober yet?” asks Johnny, whilst Henry tells him to turn it off. Eventually Henry turns it off itself. “Glad to meet you kid, you’re a real horse’s ass”, Henry says, and Johnny replies: “Luther said I could learn something from you…Luther had you down as a big-timer, what happened?” Henry tells him about a job that went wrong, and Johnny calls him a “screw up”. Henry then asks Johnny if Lonnegan is after him too, and Johnny replies that he isn’t sure, he hasn’t seen anybody. “You never do, kid”, says Henry. Scene ends with Henry plunging his head into a basin full of ice.
- Cut to the golf course. One of Doyle Lonnegan’s gangsters approaches, and says: “we talked to Chicago, we got one of the grifters last night, a nigger”. “How about the other one?” asks Doyle, and the minion replies that they’re still looking for him. Doyle then explains in no uncertain terms that he wants Johnny found, because he can’t afford to lose face.
- Cut to Henry and Johnny in the merry go round room, where Henry is being given orders by Billie. “You want to stay here the rest of your life?” asks Johnny. “I could do a lot worse”, Henry replies. Losing patience, Johnny asks Henry if he’s going to learn to play the big con or not, and Henry asks him what the hurry is. Johnny wants to play for Lonnegan, but Henry says: “know anything about the guy?” “Yeah, I know he croaked Luther”, Johnny replies, “anything else I need to know?” Johnny relents, telling Henry what he knows about Lonnegan, and Henry interrupts by telling Johnny that Lonnegan owns “half the politicians in New York and Chicago…ain’t a fix in the world going to cool you out if he blows on you”. Johnny then admits that he, “doesn’t know enough about killing to kill him”. Henry tells Johnny how difficult it will be to get the better of Lonnegan and Johnny accuses him of being scared of the gangster. Henry admits he’s scared “right down to my socks, buster”, of Lonnegan. Henry grins and says that he’s in though, but admits that “after what happened to Luther”, he can’t get more than two or three hundred guys. They get on the merry go round, and Henry says: “Luther said you learn fast, I hope he’s right”.
- Montage sequence of Henry sprucing Johnny up – taking him to the barbers, to the tailors, and then Johnny moving into a new apartment. We also see Henry rubbing his nose by way of a sign to various people he comes across in the street and in the bank, and then see Johnny leaving his new apartment and slipping a piece of paper between the door and its frame.
- Cut to Billie walking down a corridor, dolled up.
- She enters a small room, where Henry, Johnny and their man in the bank are sitting. “Lonnegan gets most of his income from the numbers”, says the banker, “even though he’s been putting more and more money into his savings and loans business…my guess is he’s just trying to build himself a respectable image…he knows the market though, I don’t think we can take him on a stops deal”. Another of their colleagues then describes how Lonnegan has risen to the top – by moving in on a racket, learning the operation and then taking it over. “He’s vindictive as hell”, he tells Henry, “kills for pride, doesn’t add up that he let Hooker get away from him”. The man also gives Johnny two photos of Lonnegan’s goons.
- We follow Billie out into the bar/brothel next door. She’s approached by Lieutenant Snyder, who’s looking for Hooker. He asks if it’s ok that he have a look around, and she says “no, but you’re welcome to a free beer before you go”. He pours the beer away, disdainfully, and says: “I don’t really need your permission”, before walking off.
- Back to the small room at the back of the brothel. JJ describes how inscrutable Lonnegan is, how he never gambles when he can’t win, how he doesn’t go out much, is only very occasionally seen with boxers. “Does he do anything where he’s not alone?” asks Henry, and JJ replies: “just poker…and he cheats…pretty good at it too”. JJ tells of a game Lonnegan plays out on the East Side, and about how lots of “high rollers” play the game.
- Back to Snyder sniffing around in the brothel. “Which way are the rooms?” he asks. Billie bluffs him into thinking that the Chief of Police is in one of them, and this causes Snyder to pause, and she makes her escape.
- Billie walks quickly down the corridor, and tells Henry that Snyder is sniffing around outside. Meanwhile the other men decide to use the wire to con Lonnegan – one says that it’s been out of date for 10 years, and Henry says: “that’s why he won’t know it”. “It’ll take two of us working the inside”, says Henry, “any objections to Hooker working as second man?” There aren’t any, and Henry asks JJ if he thinks he can get into the game that Lonnegan regularly plays. “All you’ve got to do is show up with a lot of money and look like a sucker”, says JJ. “You’ve also gotta win”, says Henry. “By the way”, he continues, “any of you guys been passing bad money recently?” Everyone denies it but Johnny looks very shifty…
- Title card reading: “The Hook”, with an image of a train on it.
- Cut to Eddie, JJ and Kid Twist heading into an old billiards room, that they’re looking to take over. At the end of the booking the man renting the property is asked whether he wants a percentage or a flat rate. “Who’s the mark?” he asks, and Kid Twist replies: “Doyle Lonnegan”. “Flat rate”, comes the ominous answer.
- Cut to Johnny and Henry at the station. Henry subtly points out who Doyle is, and Johnny says: “he’s not as tough as he thinks”. “Neither are we”, Henry replies.
- Henry and Johnny check into their carriage on the train, and Henry says to the guard: “I hear there’s a friendly poker game on this train, can you get me in that game?” The guard says that there’s a waiting list, and Henry produces more money, which the guard gleefully accepts: Henry’s in.
- Cut to Kid Twist entering a gambling den. He goes through to the back where he discusses Luther’s death with DUKE BOUDREAU (Jack Collins), and Kid tells him that: “Gondorff is setting up a wire store on the North side, I’m gonna need a twenty man boost right away…this is a tough one Dukey these boys have gotta be the quill”. Duke calls a man to go and get “the sheet”.
- Back in the den, we see Snyder arrive. Duke’s man gives a subtle tap on the door and…
- Inside the room, Duke gets up and opens a peep hole. He asks Kid Twist if he recognises Snyder, and he says that he’s never seen him before.
- Back in the bar, Snyder zeroes in on one of Johnny’s friends, and asks where Johnny is. “He enrolled in detective school”, replies the man, so Snyder bashes his head against the table, before leaving.
- Duke’s man enters with the list, and Duke hands it over to Kid Twist. “These and the guys outside should give you thirty or more to choose from”, he says. “Have ‘em down by Stanners’ old pool hall before 6 o’clock”, says Kid, “we’re gonna run the route tonight”. “Remember if this thing blows up”, Duke warns, “I can’t do you no good downtown”. “Dukey”, says Kid Twist, “if this thing blows up, the Feds will be the least of our problems”.
- Cut to JJ entering Henry’s room on the train. JJ has managed to find out what deck Lonnegan likes to play with, and that he likes to call low, 8s or 9s. Henry’s delighted with JJ’s work.
- Cut to Lonnegan moving through the train, accompanied by his two goons. Coming the other way is Billie, who bumps into Lonnegan on her way past. She then walks past Johnny sitting down, reading a newspaper, and drops Lonnegan’s wallet on the chair next to him before moving on down the carriage.
- Johnny moves through the train, passing JJ on his way. They don’t acknowledge each other.
- JJ enters Henry’s cabin and throws him the wallet. “She picked him clean, he never missed it”, says Johnny. Henry opens the wallet to reveal about $15 – $20k in cash. “He’s waiting for you in the card room”, says Johnny and Henry replies: “let him wait”. Henry practises his card tricks, and they’re very impressive, until he screws up and Johnny rolls his eyes. “You just worry about your round, kid”, says Henry, and Johnny replies: “if we ever get to it”.
- In the card room, Lonnegan asks the guard whether he’ll vouch for Henry. The guard describes Henry as “wearing an expensive suit, $200 in cash on him”, and says that he will vouch for him.
- Back in his room, Henry is pouring gin down the sink, and swigging some as he goes. He explains that you should always “drink gin with a mark kid, you can’t tell if you cut it”.
- Back to the card room, and the game is about to begin, but Lonnegan says that they should wait for Henry.
- Henry then comes blasting in the door, dishevelled, and gripping his bottle of gin. “Sorry I’m late guys I was taking a crap”, says Henry. Lonnegan gives the guard an intimidating stare, as Henry introduces himself as “Mr. Shaw”. Henry asks for $5000 in chips to begin with, and then Lonnegan suggests that if he doesn’t have a tie, they can go and get him one. Henry pours himself a shot of gin and says that would be nice. He pronounces Lonnegan’s name wrong and then, when Lonnegan corrects him, Henry burps.
- Cut to Kid Twist sitting in his new gambling den, which is currently enjoying a makeover. He’s interviewing CURLY JACKSON (Tom Spratley) to join the racket. Curly knows how to run a wire, and Kid hires him on the spot.
- Back to the card game, and Henry wins, and insults Lonnegan in the process, mispronouncing his name for the second time. Just as Henry’s about to pour himself a celebratory drink, Lonnegan stops him and tells him that they’re going to have another game.
- Back to the gambling den, and the wire machine is delivered. Meanwhile, the man who was assaulted by Snyder in the other gambling den, Joe Eerie, comes to see Kid Twist. Joe explains that he’s never played the con before, but he was a friend of Luther’s, and thought there might be something he could do. Kid Twist hires him on the spot.
- Back to the second card game. Henry wins again, and sympathises with the vanquished by telling them that “they wouldn’t let you in here if you weren’t a chump”. One man pulls out of the game, and then Lonnegan calls for a break, which Henry complains about. “I was just starting to do good!” he says.
- Lonnegan goes next door to his cabin and washes his hands whilst telling his goons that he wants the other man out, so he can take Henry on one-on-one. His minions advise him to get out of the game as the train’s almost at the station, but he’s having none of it.
- Back to the game. We see Lonnegan subtly swapping the decks of cards. The game goes on, and quickly the third man pulls out, leaving Lonnegan and Henry to keep trying to up the odds, until there’s thousands and thousands on the line. Henry wins, with four jacks, and tells Lonnegan: “you owe me $15k, pal”. Lonnegan, who’s got steam coming out of his ears, then reaches into his pocket to get his wallet but, of course, it isn’t there. Lonnegan rises to leave, saying that he must’ve left his wallet in his room, but Henry rises too and says: “don’t give me that crap, when you come to a game like this you bring your money”. Lonnegan loses his temper at this point, and has to be restrained from hitting Henry. Henry tells everyone present that he’ll send a boy round to his to collect the money in five minutes, and threatens to tell the whole of Chicago if the money isn’t forthcoming. “You won’t be able to get a game of jacks”, he warns him.
- Henry leaves looking very pleased with himself, and returns to his cabin where Johnny is. He tells Johnny that it’s his turn now, and warns him that Lonnegan is “steaming”, and to watch out.
- Meanwhile in Lonnegan’s room, his goon is trying to talk his way out of a tricky situation. “Doyle I know I gave him four threes”, says the goon, “he must’ve made a switch”.
- Cut to Johnny entering Lonnegan’s room, introducing himself as “Kelly” and explaining that Shaw sent him. “Your boss is quite a card player Mr. Kelly”, says Lonnegan, “how does he do it?” “He cheats”, Johnny explains. “Well in that case I’ll just keep my money and we can have another game”, says Lonnegan but Johnny says that: “you don’t have anything to bet…here’s your wallet…he hired a dame to take it from you”. “Shaw’s been planning to beat your game for months”, Johnny continues, “he’s just been waiting for you to cheat him, so he could clip you”. At this Lonnegan belts Johnny, sending him sprawling, and tells his goon to take Johnny away and go and kill Henry. “It won’t look too good you killing a guy you owe money to…there’s better ways of taking him down”, says Henry. “What do you think Shaw would do to me if he knew I was telling you this?” he asks, off Lonnegan’s sceptical look. Lonnegan asks why Johnny is ratting on Henry, and he says: “I want to take over his operation and I need you to help me break him”. Lonnegan looks in his wallet and sees it’s empty, and Johnny tells him that Henry has the money. There’s a knock at the door and another goon tells them that the train is pulling into the station. Lonnegan tells Johnny that he’s going with him, and tells him to make an excuse to Henry.
- Lonnegan and Johnny leave the station, as Henry looks on through the window.
- In the back of the car, Lonnegan asks Johnny what makes him think he can beat Shaw/Henry. “I’ve been planning this for two years”, says Henry, “I know his organisation backwards and forwards and I need somebody who’s respectable, but not completely legit”. “I’m a banker”, Lonnegan replies, “that’s legit in this state”. “All you’ve gotta do is put a bet down for me at Shaw’s place, I’ll do the rest”, says Johnny, “I’ll supply the money I’ll supply the information”. Lonnegan then asks about the money Johnny came to collect, and queries whether Henry will miss it, but Johnny says: “I’ll tell him you paid it…I keep his books, he trusts me…if you help me out I’ll back you back the money you owe out of my own pocket”. “It’s worth that much to ya?” Lonnegan asks, and Johnny confirms that it is. Lonnegan then asks Johnny where he comes from, and Johnny tells him from the Five Points, in New York. They drop Johnny off, and he tells Lonnegan to meet him tomorrow if he wants to go ahead with the plan. Lonnegan replies that if he isn’t there by quarter to six then he won’t be coming at all.
- Johnny returns to his apartment, and when he reaches the door notices the piece of paper he stuck in it earlier now dislodged. He turns immediately and starts running, but then two men appear and start shooting at him.
- They run out into the street and can’t see Johnny, because he’s hanging onto the side of passing dustbin truck. Johnny disappears into the night.
- The next day Johnny turns up at Henry’s new gambling den, and is evasive about how everything went the night before.
- Title card: “The Tale” with an image of two men hunched behind a newspaper.
- Lonnegan enters his racket house and asks his thug REILLY what happened the night before. “We missed him”, says Reilly, “there was no way he could’ve known we was in that room, someone must’ve wised him up”. Lonnegan tells his man that he wants their best assassin, SOLINO, put on the job now, as the others have failed.
- Shot of Kid Twist looking out of his newly-rented apartment window at the chemist Johnny agreed to meet Lonnegan at.
- Cut to the finished gambling den, where Curly Jackson is helping Eerie prepare, and is applying his own fake moustache. Henry, done up in a tuxedo, watches the scene develop from the office at the top of the gambling hall.
- Cut to Johnny in the chemist. One of Lonnegan’s goons enters and then Johnny realises that Lonnegan has slipped in round the back, and is sitting behind him. Johnny tells Lonnegan that “sometime after 2 o’clock a guy’s going to call and give you the name of a horse, all you gotta do is take this $2 grand and take down the alley and across the street to Shaw’s place and bet it on that pony…there’s nothing to it…but don’t take too much time, we’ve only got 3 or 4 minutes after you get the call”. Johnny reiterates that he’ll pay Lonnegan’s debt himself, after the race.
- Johnny leaves the building and rubs his nose to signal to Kid Twist that Lonnegan has gone for the bait.
- Johnny heads to the gambling den…
- While Kid Twist watches Lonnegan at the window of the chemist. He then receives a call revealing a tip-off, and in turn calls the chemist and relays the tip to Lonnegan.
- Lonnegan and his men leave the chemist watched by Kid Twist, who pushes a button alerting Johnny and Henry that the gangster is on his way.
- Lonnegan enters the den, and Henry watches him from the office with Loretta. They observe Lonnegan’s muscle, and Henry says that they need to get rid of them somehow to isolate Lonnegan.
- Henry emerges from the office and has a verbal pop at Lonnegan as he places his bet. “He’s got a way of betting money he doesn’t have”, Henry tells the bookie. Lonnegan removes the envelope Johnny gave him earlier and places the money on the horse he was tipped off about. The race begins and Johnny gives Lonnegan a reassuring look, but then the other “characters” in the scene come to life, as Eerie tells Lonnegan that the horse he’s bet on is just in there to “round out the field”. Eerie then moves off, and Johnny comes over and Lonnegan sarcastically remarks: “great tip you handed me there, kid”. The race continues, however, and Lonnegan’s horse “Bluenote” ends up winning, and Lonnegan exchanges a smile with Johnny.
- Lonnegan goes to collect his winnings, and Henry comes over. “Both those garbage men belong to you?” says Henry, “well get ‘em outta here and don’t bring them back, this is a class joint”. Henry then orders Johnny/Kelly to “run those bums outta here”. Henry and Johnny then put on a boss/employer act, as Henry reiterates that he wants Lonnegan’s goons out. Lonnegan and his men then leave, and as soon as they’re gone, Henry says “that’s it fellas” and the whole room erupts in cheers and laughter, as the façade slips. In the office, Loretta gets the signal from Henry to put JJ out of his misery (JJ has been concealed, pretending to be the commentator on the race).
- Johnny goes to see Lonnegan – “what I tell you?” says Johnny, pleased with himself. “You got lucky once, that’s not enough”, Lonnegan replies. “Lucky hell, I can do it every time”, says Johnny and Lonnegan asks “why don’t you do it every time then?” “Because it’s better to do it all at once”, Henry replies, “we’re going to put down £400k next week, at 5-to-1 odds that’s $2 million – 20% of that is yours if you stick with it”. Lonnegan wants answers – wants to know how Johnny’s doing it – before he’ll commit to staying in. “I got a partner downtown”, says Johnny, “now he runs the central office of the Western Union, now race results from all over the country come in there and go right across his desk to the bookies…now all he does is hold ‘em for a couple of minutes so he can call us and get a bet down on the winner…then he releases the results to the bookies, and we clean up on a race that’s already been run”. Lonnegan then gives him an envelope, but it only contains $1k. “Hey, there’s only a grand here”, says Johnny, and Lonnegan replies: “make another bet tomorrow”. “What the hell is this where’s my money? I got $16k coming”, says Johnny. “You owe me $15k already”, says Lonnegan, “and if your set-ups as good as you say it is, then there’s plenty more to come”. “I decide when to place the bets”, says Johnny, but Lonnegan replies: “not if you want me to keep making ‘em for ya”. “I gotta talk to my partner first, we can’t afford to expose too much”, says Johnny, and Lonnegan replies that he’ll talk to Johnny’s partner himself (an idea Johnny quickly dashes). “You’ve been waiting a long time for this, Kelly”, warns Lonnegan, “don’t ruin it for yourself…I’ll pick you up tomorrow at three”.
- Johnny walks down the street after his meeting with Lonnegan and the camera briefly focuses on an unknown figure, sitting at a car, wearing leather gloves.
- Johnny tells Twist on the phone that Lonnegan didn’t go for it, and wants to see Johnny’s partner at 3pm tomorrow. Twist says that they’ll never get a telegraph set up by then, and Johnny laments his inability to stall Lonnegan earlier. “Well we’ll have to play him on the fly”, says Twist, “I’ll get Eddie looking for a place”.
- Johnny hangs up but as he does so Snyder smashes the glass of the phone box with his gun. Johnny bursts out of the phone box, however, past Snyder, and hares off out of the saloon and down the street. Snyder then emerges and gives chase in his car, and a farcical chase scene ensues, until Hooker eventually outwits and outruns the portly Snyder…
- Billie’s brothel. “Why didn’t you tell me about Snyder before?” asks Henry, and Johnny replies that he thought he’d lost him. “Well you found him again and we’re going to have to do something about it”, Henry replies. “What else haven’t you been telling me?” asks Henry, and Johnny replies that he’s told him everything else. Henry pushes on though, and asks Johnny why he moved out of his room. “It was too noisy”, Johnny lies. “You can’t play your friends like marks, Hooker”, says Johnny, “you know easy it would be for one of Lonnegan’s guys to get you”. “All we need is a couple of days and we can get the sonofabitch and nail him”, Hooker replies, defiant. “You just won’t learn, will ya”, says Henry, “I teach you stuff that maybe five guys in the whole world know, stuff that most grifters couldn’t do even if they knew it and all you wanna do is run down a bullet”. “I’m asking a couple of days, that’s all”, says Johnny, “I can stay clear that long”. “Christ they’ll probably miss you and hit me”, Henry reflects.
- Title card: “The Wire”, with an image of a man listening to a wire.
- Johnny enters the café he’s due to meet Lonnegan at, and arrives early, ordering some food.
- Cut to JJ and Twist, dressed as decorators, pulling up in a truck outside Western Union.
- Back in the café, Johnny delights the waitress by tipping her before he leaves.
- JJ and Twist enter Western Union and ask to speak to someone called MR. HARMAN about a painting job.
- Meanwhile, Johnny is collected by Lonnegan, and they head off to a location chosen by Johnny.
- Meanwhile, JJ and Twist barge their way into the manager’s office, and insist he leave so they can get their painting done. As soon as he’s gone, however, Twist pulls off his overalls and starts setting the office up so it looks like his own. He checks to see that the side entrance to the office is available, and it is.
- Hooker pulls up with Lonnegan, and lets everyone know that they’re going in through the side door.
- They enter, and Twist pretending to be the bank manager chastises Hooker for bringing Lonnegan there – he’s having the place painted, he explains, and they can’t talk there. Lonnegan, as is his way, enters the office anyway to get a good look at the place, and as if to really convince him that it’s all on the level, Twist tells his secretary via the intercom that he’s popping out for the rest of the day.
- Cut to the secretary, looking thoroughly baffled.
- The men leave the office, and as soon as they have done JJ puts down his paintbrush and leaves too.
- The manager then re-enters his office, to find green paint all over the wall, and JJ and Twist nowhere to be seen.
- Cut to Lonnegan, Twist and Johnny in a bar. Lonnegan says that he wants to see the set-up “one more time”, but Twist explains that they’ve got telegraph inspectors all over the place, and he can’t. “We got $400k coming in from the coast next week and you’re going to risk that on a lousy $15k?” he says to Lonnegan. “If it works again tomorrow I’ll finance the whole thing, half a million dollars, sixty forty we split”, Lonnegan says. “We’ve already got a guy”, says Twist, “who’s going to give us half – what am I supposed to say to him?” “From what I know about your operation I’d be worried about making me happy”, says Lonnegan, and Johnny supports Lonnegan, telling Twist: “Lonnegan’s a banker he can get the money without any questions asked”. Twist counters by saying that they can’t keep going round to Shaw’s place and cleaning up – “he’s bound to get wise”. Eventually Lonnegan agrees to go for short odds, and storms off.
- Cut to Snyder, being approached by two FBI guys, who want to take him for a word with their boss.
- Snyder is taken to a warehouse, where a senior FBI Agent tells him that they believe he knows a con-man named Johnny Hooker. Snyder says that he knows him, but doesn’t know where he is. The FBI man tells Snyder that Johnny is hanging around with Henry Gondorff, and that there’s word Henry is going to run a con on the south side of Chicago. The FBI man claims they have a case against Henry, but it’s a flimsy one, and they need Snyder to pick up Hooker for them. “Why don’t you pick him up yourself?” asks Snyder. “Because if word gets out that the Feds are in on it Gondorff will fold up the whole thing”, says the FBI man. Snyder cracks a lame joke, and the FBI man isn’t impressed. “Don’t get wise with me flatfoot”, he snarls, “I’ve spent too much time in dumps like this eating Gondorff’s dust, whilst you guys in the bunko squads get rich tipping him off”. “That’s not going to happen this time”, he says, “we’re not going to tell the police we’re here…you keep your mouth shut and do your job and there’ll be some reward bucks in it for you”. Snyder then asks what good Hooker is to them, and the FBI man says: “he’s going to set-up Gondorff for us”. “He’ll never do it”, says Snyder. “I’ll think he will”, the FBI man replies.
- Title card: “The Shut-Out”.
- Lonnegan arrives outside the gambling den, is seen by Twist who’s watching from his window, and the alarm is sounded in the den. Henry tells everyone to get ready, and heads into the office where…
- JJ and Billie are struggling with their machine. Henry enters, and asks them how it’s going. “Nothing yet”, says JJ, “I had a good one on the lead at Lincoln Fields but he faded”. “Take four to one if you have to”, says Henry.
- In the cashier’s section, Eddie Niles is preparing the “boodles”. Henry approaches: “you can forget the boodle Eddie, he could hit us for $15k at four to one and we can’t handle that…I’ll give ‘em the shut out”.
- Back in the office, JJ finally gets a suitable tip, and Billie takes it out show Henry.
- Cut to Kid Twist in his apartment, receiving the call from Henry.
- He in turn calls the diner where Lonnegan is, and gives him the tip.
- Lonnegan heads over to Henry’s den, and gets stuck in a queue, which annoys him and delights Henry, who staged the queue. Lonnegan misses the beginning of the race and can’t make his bet after it’s started. Lonnegan goes over to Johnny – who’s serving drinks – and tells him that he didn’t make the bet in time. Johnny acts like he’s furious. After the race – which goes as predicted – Lonnegan beckons for Johnny to meet him outside.
- “I’ll have half a million here by tomorrow”, says Lonnegan, “lay it on the first race where the odds are four to one or better, make sure I get to the winner this time”.
- Johnny eats in the café from earlier, and as he pays asks Loretta, the waitress, out on a date, which she rejects. He then looks across the street and sees what appears to be a man waiting for him out the front. He tells Loretta to go to the bathroom, open the window, and then wait in the toilet for him. The man outside wants to kill him, he explains. Loretta does as she’s told, and Johnny ventures outside…
- Johnny acts normally, until he sees the man, and then sprints back inside the café with his would-be assassin in pursuit.
- The assassin goes through to the back, and tries the bathroom door. “It’s taken”, replies Loretta from inside, and the assassin looks down at her legs and believes her.
- Cut to a shot inside the cubicle, however, which reveals Johnny in there with her, perched on the toilet seat.
- The assassin looks around and sees the nearby window open, and believing Johnny to have fled that way, jumps out. The assassin then goes round to the front of the café, looking for Johnny, who comes out the front, and Johnny has to spin on his heel to escape.
- Johnny hares down an alley, but it comes to a dead end.
- The assassin goes down the same alley, and comes to the dead end too, but can’t see Johnny anywhere. Giving up, he puts away his gun, but is then confronted by an unknown gunman, who addresses him as Salino, and shoots him twice in the chest. The scene ends with the camera panning down to the slightly loose manhole cover, into which Johnny clearly fled…
- Johnny returns to his apartment and finds Snyder waiting for him. Snyder marches him off.
- Snyder’s car arrives at the FBI warehouse from earlier, and Johnny is marched inside.
- Johnny is introduced to FBI AGENT POLK (Dana Elcar), who explains that they want to talk to him about Henry. Johnny denies knowing him, and then tells them that don’t have any evidence against him. “Oh yeah, how about counterfeiting?” says Polk, and Johnny doesn’t reply. “We’ve had a tip that Gondorff is going to run a con on the south side here”, says Polk, “all you’ve gotta do is tell us when he’s going to play his trump…we come at the sting, make the pinch, and you walk out, free as a bird”. Johnny refuses this offer, and Polk asks him: “you wanna spend the next 20 years in a federal penitentiary, starting tonight?” Johnny says that he’ll make parole, and Polk says: “like hell, you won’t even get a review”. “I’ll chance it”, says Johnny. Polk then threatens Johnny with putting ALVA COLEMAN, Luther’s widow, in jail for a long time too. “If you’re too dumb to save yourself there’s no sense dragging her down with you”, Polk tells him. “It’s over, Hooker”, says Polk, “now I’m going to get Henry Gondorff whether you help me out or not”. “Will you wait until the chump is played?”, asks Johnny. “Hell yes we don’t care about the mark he deserves everything he gets”, says Polk. “I mean completely played”, says Johnny, “you come in before he’s played and I’ll kill him”. “Ok Hooker”, says Polk, “but you try to take it on the lamb, and we’ll shoot you down on sight”. “As long as I get to finish the play”, says Johnny and Snyder and Polk exchange a look which suggests that they’re ok with that.
- Cut to Henry and Johnny playing cards. “What is it kid you’re not saying much”, says Henry. “Just got the jumps is all”, Johnny replies, before Loretta enters and says: “things are a little slow tonight I want to open the round for the girls”, and Henry tells her that’s fine. Henry tells Johnny to relax, because they’re not going to lose him now. Johnny then admits defeat to Henry at cards, and then asks him how many guys he’s conned in his life. “Two or three hundred”, Henry replies. Henry then reflects on how great Chicago was as a conman’s haven back in the day. “And it really stung, kid”, says Henry, “no sense being a grifter if it’s the same as being a citizen”. Henry then gets up to do some packing, he’s going to be a “hot number again after tomorrow”. “You know I wouldn’t ask you do this if it weren’t for Luther”, says Johnny. “Nothing’s going to make up for Luther”, says Henry, “revenge if for suckers, I’ve been grifting thirty years and I never got any”. “Then why are you doing it?” asks Johnny, and Henry replies: “seems worthwhile, doesn’t it?” Johnny leaves.
- Johnny passes through the merry go round, which is full of hookers.
- Henry lights a cigar.
- Late at night, Henry waits outside the café, and sees the lights go off as Loretta prepares to leave. He sees her simply walk next-door, and then a light comes on in the upstairs window and we realise that she lives above the café.
- He goes inside and knocks on her door. “Looks like he missed you”, she says. “Yeah, this time anyway”, Hooker replies. He then asks her to come out for a drink with him, and she rebuffs him, saying that she doesn’t know him. “You know me”, he replies, “I’m just like you, it’s two in the morning and I don’t know nobody”. Won over, she lets him in.
- Cut to Henry smoking in bed with Billie. She tells him to relax, he’s done everything he can.
- Cut to Johnny and Loretta, in bed together too – she fast asleep, he awake.
- Title card: “The Sting”, with an image of horse racing.
- Establishing shot of the city in the morning.
- Johnny wakes up in Loretta’s bed, but she’s nowhere to be seen. He looks around the room and realises it’s been cleaned out. He then looks at his wallet, which has some money in it, but is it enough?
- Cut to Henry getting ready in the mirror.
- Cryptic shot of someone putting a gun together – presumably the same person who shot Salino.
- Then, in Lonnegan’s chambers, we see a man delivering a suitcase with a great deal of money in it.
- Back to the shot of someone putting a gun together. We pan up and see the man’s face, but don’t recognise him.
- Out of the man’s window, we can see Johnny through the café window below, eating away.
- Cut to a shot of Henry and Billie, walking past the merry go round for the final time.
- Cut to Johnny getting ready in his hotel room.
- Lonnegan and his men arrive, carrying the money, but meanwhile…
- Johnny puts in a call to the FBI, and tells them that they should make their way to the den, and that although there are a couple of guys on the door, they aren’t armed.
- Hooker leaves the hotel by the back route, but little does he know he’s being watched by the man with the gun. As the scene unfolds, Johnny walks towards Loretta, and just as he’s about to say hello the man with the gun emerges and shoots her in the head. The man runs out and rolls Loretta’s body over, to reveal a gun in her hand. “She was going to kill you, kid”, the man tells Johnny, and goes on to say that Lonnegan’s people set her up in the diner. He runs off, telling Johnny to follow him.
- Cut to Johnny in a car with the man. “But she coulda killed me last night”, says Johnny, but the man explains that too many people could’ve seen Johnny go into her room. Johnny then asks the man who he is, and he replies: “Gondorff asked me to look after ya”.
- Cut to all the FBI agents leaving their warehouse. Polk approaches Snyder and says: “I just got a tip that Gondorff’s mark is some big New York wheel, as soon as we’re inside you get him outta there, fast, before any of the reporters show up – I don’t want any bigshots around to mess this up for me”. They drive off.
- Cut to a shot of Lonnegan leaving to go to the den.
- Meanwhile, inside the den, Henry waits anxiously for Johnny’s arrival and is pleased to see him when he does appear. Henry asks JJ for a tip and JJ tells him that he’s working on it.
- In the café, Lonnegan waits with the briefcase full of money. The phone rings and Lonnegan is given his tip. He leaves, and Kid Twist is watching, as ever, and presses the buzzer.
- Lonnegan walks into the den, and puts $500k on the race. Eddie tells Lonnegan to hold on, whilst he goes to get the manager. Eddie goes over to Henry, and tells him about Lonnegan’s bet. Henry comes over and explains that they can’t lay a bet that big off in time, it could break them, he says. “Not only are you a cheat”, growls Lonnegan, “but you’re a gutless cheat as well”. Henry asks Eddie what the odds are, and Eddie says “four to one”. Henry tells him to take it all, and then walks off. The “race” begins, and then we see Kid Twist enter. Kid Twist comes and sits next to Lonnegan, and asks him if everything’s going alright. Lonnegan replies: “you’ve got nothing to worry about”. Lonnegan tells Twist that he put it all on a horse called Lucky Damn to win, and Twist flips, saying that he told him to bet on Lucky Damn to place, not necessarily win. It’s now Lonnegan’s turn to flip – he gets up and approaches the counter, and tries to get his money back by force. However the FBI then come crashing into this chaotic scene, to Henry’s great surprise. Polk approaches Henry and tells him: “it’s been a long time, but it’s over”. He then turns to Johnny and says: “it’s ok kid, you can go”. Henry looks at Johnny, disgusted, and then as Johnny walks away Henry pulls out a gun and shoots him. Polk, in turn, shoots Henry. Snyder then leaves with Lonnegan, and outside…
- Lonnegan rants about wanting to get his money back, but Snyder says: “there’s a couple of dead guys in there – you don’t want to get mixed up in that”.
- Back in the den, Polk checks that Snyder and Lonnegan have gone, and then leans down to Johnny and says: “he’s gone”. One of Johnny’s eyes opens, and then both he and Henry get to their feet – it was fake blood and fake bullets all along. Everyone laughs and Henry says: “it was a nice con, Hickey, I thought you were the Feds myself when you came in”. Henry comes over to Johnny and says: “well kid, you beat ‘em”, and Johnny replies: “it’s enough, but it’s close”, and the pair erupt into laughter. “Ok guys”, says Henry, addressing everyone, “break up this place fast, you can pick up your splits from Eddie later on”. Henry says goodbye to JJ and Loretta, and then as he’s leaving says to Johnny: “you not sticking around for your share?” “Nah”, Johnny replies, “I’d only blow it”. Henry and Johnny then leave together, however.
- Final image: Henry and Johnny walking off down the alley together.
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2 thoughts on “Save the Cat Analysis Series: THE STING (1973)”
Oh, I forgot to comment on Johnny’s last lines. The Johnny we meet would definitely take his cut. Johhny at the end doesn’t take his cut because he’d “blow it.” He doesn’t take his cut because that would destroy the integrity of avenging Luther’s death. That’s a man talking – not a boy.
I disagree about the protagonist (Johnny) not learning anything. He learns what Harry told him at the start: that sweet revenge is, in fact, bittersweet. It’s “not enough” to make up for Luther’s death. Because this is a feel-good movie, the director can’t dwell on this somber moment, so he buries it immediately with Johnny’s grinning response that the con was pretty close. But Johnny’s definitely changed. He starts the movie as a kid thinking he can get revenge to make everything square. He ends it as a man because now he knows he can punish someone but there’s no way to square Luther’s death. Instead of sulking like an embittered child, he acknowledges and accepts this truth and moves forward with a new-found maturity.