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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Grifters

May 7th, 2013

The Grifters - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

There are a flood of Blu-rays from Echo Bridge coming out this week. This includes The Hoax (Buy from Amazon), which I previously reviewed; Dragon Lord (Buy from Amazon), a Jackie Chan film from 1982; Fortress (Buy from Amazon) a middling sci-fi action film; and many others. I was able to get screeners for three of these films, starting with The Grifters.

The Movie

In the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to three con artists. Lilly works for a bookie, Bobo Justus, lowering the odds of long shots to avoid big payouts, but she's skimming a bit from the top. Roy works small time cons, tricking bartenders into giving him too much change and coning bar patrons out of spare change. Myra uses her charm to get a jeweler to buy diamonds she knows are fake, pretending to be the victim of a scam. Lilly and Myra have good paydays, but Roy gets the butt end of a baseball bat in his stomach. These three con artists are not separate stories. Roy is Lilly's son and Myra's boyfriend.

The blow Roy took was tougher than it looked, and that night he hallucinates Joe, his old mentor. Joe gave him two rules, never take a partner and never do the long-con. Partners will take half your money, if they don't con you and take it all. Long-cons risk jail time, and you never go to jail. It seems strange that Roy would date a fellow con artist, if the first rule was don't have a partner. However, Myra and Roy don't know the other is a con artist.

Lilly's latest assignment takes her close to Los Angeles and she drops by Roy. The family reunion isn't a warm one. Lilly tries to be a good mother, but she just doesn't have the experience to pull it off, and Roy isn't willing to give her another shot. Lilly is perceptive enough to tell something is wrong with Roy and gets him to a hospital. She even threatens to have the doctor killed if her son dies. It's close to maternal instinct. She stays with her son at the hospital and meets Myra. The pair hate each other immediately. Lilly stays so long with Roy that she misses her job at the track. Not only is she not able to fix the odds on the long shot, the long shot wins and costs Bobo a fortune. (He later makes her pay, in a rather painful way.)

Lilly still tries to reconnect with Roy, which is something he's less than thrilled about. After yet another confrontation with his mother, Roy decides to get out of town with Myra. However, while the pair are on the train to La Jolla, Myra catches Roy conning some sailors in a crocked card game. When Myra confronts Roy, she's happy and explains she's a con artist as well. She used to be with a partner doing the long con. However, she's looking for a new partner, and she thinks Roy would be perfect. Roy, on the other hand, remembers the first two rules Joe taught him: No partners and no long cons. Myra thinks Roy refuses her offer because of Lilly and this is enough for Myra to get revenge on Lilly.

I love con movies and this one is expertly done. However, this film is a lot darker than most con artist movies I like. A movie about a con artist torn between his mother and his girlfriend, both of whom are also con artists, could have been an energetic farce. This film is a dark and depressing film, but one that is wholly engaging. Just be warned about the film's tone, or you might not have a good time. The acting in this movie is incredible and I'm not surprised Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening earned Oscar nominations. In fact, Annette Bening probably should have won. Also, Dances with Wolves shouldn't have won for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, but I would have given those Oscars to Goodfellas over The Grifters. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time, so that shouldn't be taken as a slight. This is an absolute must see.

The Extras

There are extras on the Blu-ray, which is a little rare for Echo Bridge. First up is an audio commentary track with plenty of people. Next is a making of featurette that runs 16 minutes. Finally there's an 8-minute featurette on Jim Thompson, who wrote the original novel.

As far as the technical presentation is, it's a bargain Blu-ray and you can tell. The video is a step-up from the DVD, but there are still a lot of scenes that are a little soft, the colors don't pop, and there are even some signs of print damage. The audio is 2.0 stereo, but at least there are no flaws to deal with.

Finally, it only costs $8, which is a great deal for shovelware like this.

The Verdict

The Grifters is absolutely worth picking up on Blu-ray. It is good enough to deserve a special edition Blu-ray, but it didn't do well enough at the box office that this is likely.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Grifters, Annette Bening, Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Pat Hingle, Anjelica Huston, Gailard Sartain, Stephen Tobolowsky