7.0/10
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96 user 61 critic

The Grifters (1990)

Trailer
1:42 | Trailer

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ON DISC
A small-time conman has torn loyalties between his estranged mother and new girlfriend--both of whom are high-stakes grifters with their own angles to play.

Director:

Stephen Frears

Writers:

Jim Thompson (novel), Donald E. Westlake (screenplay)
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

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Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anjelica Huston ... Lilly Dillon
John Cusack ... Roy Dillon
Annette Bening ... Myra Langtry
Jan Munroe ... Guy at Bar
Robert Weems Robert Weems ... Racetrack Announcer
Stephen Tobolowsky ... Jeweler
Jimmy Noonan ... Bartender
Richard Holden Richard Holden ... Cop
Henry Jones ... Simms
Michael Laskin ... Irv
Eddie Jones ... Mintz
Sandy Baron ... Doctor
Lou Hancock ... Nurse
Gailard Sartain ... Joe
Noelle Harling Noelle Harling ... Nurse Carol Flynn
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Storyline

Lily works for a bookie, placing bets to change the odds at the track. When her son is hospitalized after an unsuccessful con job and resultant beating, she finds that even an absentee parent has feelings for her child. This causes her own job to go wrong as well. Each of them faces the down side of the grift. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Seduction. Betrayal. Murder. Who's Conning Who?

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA | Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 January 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ambiciones prohibidas See more »

Filming Locations:

Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$125,195, 21 January 1991, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$13,446,769
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cineplex-Odeon Films See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Anjelica Huston and John Cusack accepted much less than their usual fees just to be in this movie. See more »

Goofs

In the train, when Roy is grifting the sailors, you can see that he is only rolling one die at a time. However, you can distinctly hear him drop two dice (out of the frame) to the table at the end of the game. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Voice-over: Around the country the bookies pay off winners at track odds. It's dangerous when a long shot comes in. Unless you have somebody at the tracks to lower those odds.
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Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Jeff Goldblum/Aerosmith (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

DO YOU DO YOU LOVE ME
Performed by Dreamworld
Words & Music by Pete Theodore and Emilie A. Bernstein (as Emily Bernstein)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Three For One Odds
18 September 2007 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

Most films have one, and only one, protagonist around whom the story is told. But "The Grifters" has three, all of them petty swindlers, desperate for quick cash or good odds at a "long con". And it's the personal relationships among these three criminals, complex, sometimes dark, and almost always motivated by survival, that make this film a pretty good bet.

Roy Dillon (John Cusack), is a trickster, a loner, "on the grift" for the "short con", strictly a nickels and dimes man. His mom is Lilly (Anjelica Huston); she's a middle-aged lady with white hair; she's seductive, cold-blooded, and tough as nails; she's been around the block a few times. Roy's love interest is Myra (Annette Bening), a shapely, fun loving babe who uses her charms to con rich businessmen. These three people are highly manipulative and scheming, on-guard, and mistrustful of each other and the rest of the world.

The film's tone is bleak and gloomy. There's very little "heart" in this film. And that's a problem, because I found these characters not very sympathetic. They lead lives of quiet desperation, grimy and tawdry. Still, "The Grifters" is a crime story in the best tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, a pulpy melodrama about the underbelly of urban America.

The film's structure is conventional, and contains a number of flashbacks. The set-up is tediously long. The second half of the film is better than the first half, in my opinion, because the second half contains more suspense.

Dialogue is direct and tough, like when Lilly makes her point to the ambulance driver who takes Roy to the hospital and is skeptical about Roy's chances for survival: Says Lilly: "My son is gonna be alright, if not, I'll have you killed". Later, she explains the facts of life to her son: "Grifts like anything else Roy, you don't stand still, you either go up or down, usually down, sooner or later". Yes indeed, it's a tough life being a "grifter"; but Lilly is one tough broad.

The film's color cinematography is fine. And the film has a terrific title sequence and a great Elmer Bernstein score at the beginning. Editing, costumes, and production design are all credible.

If you're in the mood for a gritty, bleak story of petty criminals in a well made modern film, "The Grifters" is a good choice. As a bonus, the DVD has an exceptionally good Commentary, with insightful comments from Director Stephen Frears, and actors John Cusack and Anjelica Huston.


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