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The Grifters Reviews

THE GRIFTERS has the mastery and hallucinatory, all-involving feel of an instant classic. Stephen Frears, a fearlessly diverse director, has immersed himself in the Los Angeles world of film noir and emerged with a movie that can easily stand alongside such classics of the genre as THE MALTESE FALCON, THE BIG SLEEP and OUT OF THE PAST. The tale is spun of three "grifters," con artists forever on the lookout for an easy hustle. Lily (Anjelica Huston) is an ultra-experienced pro who specializes in racetrack odds altering. Her son, Roy (John Cusack), is basically small-time, hustling sailors and bartenders with loaded dice and sleight-of-hand tricks. His inamorata, Myra (Annette Bening), likes corporate action, a field she is easily able to ply with her siren's body and wardrobe of Chanel suits. Lily had Roy when she was but a girl herself, and the two have mostly gone their separate ways. They meet up again in California, where Lily takes an immediate dislike to Myra. Her ill feeling is met and matched by Roy, who has never resolved his filial feelings for her, as well as by Myra, who, having been wholly rebuffed by Lily, resolves to take her down. The climax, involving Lily and Roy, is swift, ugly, cathartic, and ultimately elegiac all at once. Adapted from modish tough-guy writer Jim Thompson's novel, Donald Westlake's screenplay has the right combination of vivid characters, mordant wit and avaricious savagery which distinguishes the best noir. The characters speak in a faintly disconcerting 1950s argot right out of the book, adding an authentic flavor to the simmeringly suggestive stew Frears has concocted.