The Grifters

The Grifters

The Grifters is a 1990 American film that is based on the life of a small time swindler, his con artist mother and his new girlfriend.

This neo-noir crime drama runs for 110 minutes of intense emotion, gambling and con artistry and displays a contemporary take on the ever-present dangers when it comes to grifting and gambling.

Cast and Crew

Directed by the award-winning director Stephen Frears, this film hold an incredibly impressive crew and was produced by the exceptionally famous, Martin Scorsese.

Frears is an English film director who is best known for his contributions to Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen and Philomena, while Scorsese, a director, screenwriter and film historian, has an impressive career that spans over more than 40 years and has won awards for an enormous number of films.

The film has a cast of well-rated actors including John Cusack, playing the role of the small time swindler, Roy Dillon and Anjelica Huston playing the role of his mother, Lilly Dillon. Others cast in The Grifters include Annette Bening, playing the role of Roy’s new girlfriend, Myra Langtry and Pat Hingle playing Lilly’s boss, Bobo Justus.

The Grifters Plot Overview

A long time con artist, Lilly Dillon works for a villainous bookmaker named Bobo Justus. Her job is to place large cash bets in order to lower the odds of the longshots.

It’s been 7 years since she’s seen her son Roy, and after going to pay him a visit in Los Angeles, she finds him badly wounded from a victim that he tried to pull a petty scam on. Lilly meets Roy’s new girlfriend, Myra, at the hospital and instantly dislikes her. Lilly arrives late to work because of the incident and is burnt on the hand with a cigar by her boss, Bobo.

Myra, like her boyfriend and his mother, appears to be quite the con artist herself, using sex appeal as her main trick. Myra invites Roy to join her in a long-term con operation, but is rejected when Roy, who insists he only gets involved in short-term con operations, gains suspicious of her motives. Increasingly insulted, Myra accuses Roy of having incestuous feelings for his mother and Roy retaliates by striking her.

Myra, now filled with anger, plots her revenge by informing Bobo of the cash that Lilly has been secretly stealing. Lilly flees and Myra follows her with the intent to kill her. Tensions continue to rise as Roy is called by an agent of the FBI to come in and identify his mother’s body.

Release and Reception

The Grifters was an extremely well received film that was released on the 5th of December in the United States and made more than 13 million US dollars. The world premiere was held on the 14th of September 1990 at the Toronto Film Festival.

While Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 9 out of 10, The Grifters holds an impressive film status and actually had a brief Academy Award-qualifying run in both New York and Los Angeles.

For this particular film Stephen Frears won an Academy Award for Best Director while Anjelica Huston won Best Actress in a Leading Role, Annette Bening won Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Adapted Screenplay was awarded to Donald E. Westlake.