Catch Me if You Can
Frank Abegnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extremely talented man, he has a great eye for detail and the ability to charm his way in and out of different situations. When the young Abegnale discovers how his skills can allow him to easily assume identities and create fake checks, he quickly works his way through several personas (most prominent of which was a Pan Am Pilot). His high risk lifestyle has earns him millions in illegally earned cash and the attention of many beautiful women -but he is still far from escaping his own personal issues and the tenacity of an FBI agent chasing him down.
The cool part about all this is that Catch Me if You Can is film adaptation of a book by the same name, which happens to be the autobiography of the real Frank Abegnale. While it is hard to fully determine the authenticity of Frank's alleged exploits (since the most victims are institutions and as such, they are not likely to admit such events lest they lose reputation, or it is also possible that some exploits had been fabricated), one thing is for certain, Abegnale's skill in his specialty is without peer, and he is hired and consulted by many banks as well as the FBI with regards to security measures against fraud. Oh, and it also helps that the movie itself features great acting and storytelling.
The best cons to see are the ones that are the most elaborate, or as they say, the long con. These involves a lot of preparation and even the participation of several con artists. But once it gets underway, unless you are part of the con itself, you will never see the end coming until it is way past you. Such is the nature of this film. The Sting is set in the 1930's, and focuses on the story of a con-man named Hooker. While he and his crew are celebrating their latest con (which has earned them enough to consider quitting the life), they learn that the money they stole belongs to the mob, and it is not long before Hooker's team is taken apart. Desperate for payback, Hooker seeks out the help of former a con-man named Gondorff, and the two become the most unlikely of allies.
Seeing Paul Newman and Robert Redford onscreen outside of Butch and Sundance is a little surprising for folks not too familiar with classic movies, but their onscreen presence is what sells most of this movie. The Sting relies primarily on the fact that viewers have to be taken for a ride, and the way that these actors take control of each scene is just astonishing to watch.
There is much more than meets the eye with Irving and Sydney. Aside from being a romantic couple, the pair are also career grafters, con artists whose life goals are to continuously improve their craft. However, one of their scams fail and they are caught by a greedy FBI agent named Richie. Impressed by their skills, Richie convinces the couple to work with him in sting operations in order to catch US Political leaders on charges of bribery -a task that makes full use of Irving and Sydney's very special skill set.
This impressive lineup of great actors (Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Rober De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence), and interesting script provides viewers with a whole movie of snarky dialogue and great acting. While the plot and narrative may feel a little contrived (and at some points, even reaching), the fact is that the film's premise is inspired by the real life events of ABSCAM, complete with all the crazy antics that makes the sting operation seem more like entrapment than anything else.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Steve Martin and Michael Caine headline this wonderfully fun comedy about swindlers. Caine takes on the role of Lawrence, a British con artist who relies on his impeccable style and demeanor to achieve the personage of a wealthy and elegant man -charming his way into bedrooms and wallets alike. Meanwhile, Martin stars Freddy Benson, an American con artist who has stumbled upon Lawrence's territory. The two quickly strike an uneasy alliance and rivalry, and decide to have a contest in order to determine who gets to stay in the territory. The rules of the competition are simple: whoever manages to smooch $50,000 from a chosen target first wins. Whoever, the target they choose is Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly), and not everything is as it seems.
There is a certain level of predictability in the turn of events for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but the main point of the film is to be funny, and even the anticipation itself is hilarious. Steve Martin is back in his element and Caine proves to be as versatile an actor as ever. Every single scene involving the two actors are pretty much comedy gold. The scams they run are not particularly new or even clever -some are even outright stupendous, but they way that they commit themselves to each instance is makes them so remarkable to watch.
When a member of career con-artist Jake Vig (Edward Burns) is found shot dead, he and his crew discover that the last person they stole money from was the local crime lord, King (Dustin Hoffman). Now, in order to get into King's good graces, the crew decides to take on a job for him and even recruits more people (Paul Giamatti, Rachel Weisz) to help with the task. While the preparations seem to be going on smoothly, special agent Gunther (Andy Garcia) arrives in town. Gunther has been tracking Jake's activities for a while now, and his presence could very well unravel the complex plans that Jake and his crew are setting up.
This film is the penultimate movie about scams and cons, it shows everything from setup, to execution, to the amazing twist at the very end (the one that convinces you about how clever the characters are). The acting is top notch, though the script itself feels lacking at points, the characters themselves feel more like cogs in the greater machine of the movie, with no one particular character managing to grow or seem truly significant. Still, this is a great movie to watch if you enjoy films about con artists and the troubles they like to get into.
Wrap Up: Stay Vigilant
Movies about con artists tend to romanticize how charming or impressive they are. Their cons promise a lot of rewards for those willing to take educated risks. It also reminds viewers to not simply, blindly, trust people with important information or resources such as money. Question everything and get as much verification of facts before engaging in large transactions -it's a unique, yet important lesson that these con artist movies teach to the viewers.