• James Rutherford

'The Grifters': An Edgy Neo-Noir Crime Thriller from Stephen Frears and Martin Scorsese


Movie poster for the film The Grifters starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening

"The Grifters" (1990) is a neo-noir crime thriller based on the novel of the same name by hardboiled fiction writer Jim Thompson, best known for "The Killer Inside Me" and "After Dark, My Sweet". The film stars John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening as a trio of disparate con-artists working each other from varying angles, and is set in Los Angeles in the late 1980's.


Cusack stars as Roy, a small-stakes hustler prone to swindling bartenders and drunken sailors for pocket money, while Huston plays Lilly, his estranged mother who reappears in his life while working a series of horse track bluffs. Myra (Bening) notches in between the two of them as Cusack’s boisterous yet conniving girlfriend, and the instant mutual dislike between her and Lilly sets the film’s course of action in motion.


It’s a fun, edgy thriller that will leave you guessing up until it's shocking finale. Elevated immeasurably by Elmer Bernstein’s old-fashioned, hardboiled music score, "The Grifters" is a real feather in the hat for both director Stephen Frears ("My Beautiful Laundrette", "Dangerous Liaisons") and producer Martin Scorsese ("Mean Streets", "Goodfellas"). It's a lesser-known gem very much worth seeking out.

 

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