“We are talking about breaking the law here. I just want to make sure you understand that. No one is going to get hurt, but the law is going to be broken.”
“Laws are made to be broken, aren't they?”
I think in another life I must have been thief or a grifter. I in no way have the balls to be either a thief or a grifter but I love stories that have to do with spies and con artists and thieves. One of my all time favorite TV shows is Leverage which if you have never heard of is a group of con artists who are good guys. Two of the characters are a thief (who is one of my all time favorite TV characters ever) and a grifter (unfortunately Leverage was canceled two years ago but it is available to view on the Ion channel and on Netflix it is hysterical and perfectly written and acted definitely watch it!). I also really like the movie The Sting which is, as the grifter once said on Leverage about a job they were doing, “It’s like grifter Christmas.” So naturally when I came across a movie called The Grifters I had to see it. I did not know what I was expecting with this movie but I did not find myself liking this movie set of grifters.
Lilly Dillon (Anjelica Huston) is a con artist. She places bets on horse races by lowering the odd of the horses that are longshots for a guy named Bobo. Lilly has a son Roy (John Cusack) who she has not seen in eight years. Roy is also a con artist. He gets himself seriously injured when a guy at a bar figures out his game and knocks Roy hard in the stomach. Lilly finds Roy in pain at his apartment and takes him to the hospital. Roy is not too happy to see his mother and is not at all happy that she is paying for his hospital stay. To make things worse between them she tells her son that he should not be a con artist he (literally) does not have the stomach to be one. His girlfriend Myra Langtry (Annette Bening) comes to visit him. Lilly immediately does not like Myra and Myra does not like Lilly who she thought was another woman after Roy.
Since she did not leave the hospital in time to get to LA for the races Lilly gets in trouble with Bobo. As a punishment he burns her hand with a cigar.
Neither Roy nor Myra knows the other one if a grifter until they are on a train together. On the train Myra sees Roy playing a crooked game of dice with some sailors. At dinner Myra tells him about a long con she had pulled off with another con artist in Texas. They set up former rich oil men saying they can get their money back and that what they were doing was all illegal. When the mark started to get suspicious Myra and the other con artist would make like someone people are robbing them and she would get shot and the mark would not be able to go to the police. Roy does not want to do a long con he wants to stick with doing short cons. He also thinks that Myra may try to dupe him. Furious Myra thinks that Lilly has a strong pull over her son that is making him not want to do a long term con with her. She goes to Bobo to tell him that Lilly has some of his money hidden in her car. Myra follows Lilly intending to kill her.
Lilly is warned by a friend that Bobo is after her. Roy is called down to La Jolla to identify the body of his mother. Her face has been completely blown off. Roy looks at the hand that should have a burn mark on it. He knows the body is Myra’s and that Lilly killed her. When he gets back to his apartment he sees his mother looking for all his hidden money. Lilly pleads with Roy to give her money so she can run away. She killed Myra but it was out of self defense and she also needs to get away from Bobo. Roy refuses to give her any money. Out of frustration Lilly takes her suitcase and hits Roy. Unfortunately Roy was holding a glass and the suitcase hits the glass and splinters it in his neck cutting his artery.
Lilly sobs over the fact that she killed her son but that does not stop her from taking the money and Roy’s car and leaving town.
The Grifters was a boring movie. Looking back I can see how they were all duping each other and trying to get something out of everyone and it was not too bad. I think when I started watching this I did not really pay attention and it took me a few days to get through it with my school schedule. I was hoping for more excitement. It felt like it wanted to be a modern Noir and it did start off that way but to me it fell a bit flat in the middle. I guess The Grifters is worth a try if you feel like watching it.