Jim Thompson’s intriguing novel about the subculture of smalltime hustlers is fashioned into a curiously uneven movie in The Grifters.
John Cusack plays Roy Dillon, a Los Angeles con man whose salesman’s job is a cover for his real vocation. Roy’s mother, Lilly (Anjelica Huston), gave birth at the tender age of 14, then fashioned a lucrative career as a roving racetrack bag lady, putting down bets for the Baltimore mob.
Roy is ministered to by his sexy girlfriend Myra (Annette Bening), who lives by her wits and her tightly wrapped body. Meanwhile, the mob boss travels west to teach Lilly a painful lesson for skimming mob money at the track.
When Roy and Myra take a holiday in La Jolla, she reveals her true colors. Myra, is an expert at the ‘big con’, elaborate swindles geared to netting five- and six-figure scores. Myra correctly suspects Roy’s little secret: a large horde of hidden cash accumulated from years of grifting.
Cusack underplays Roy, making him an unbelievable wiseguy, a colorless cipher too akin to the saps he loves to fleece.
1990: Nominations: Best Director, Actress (Anjelica Huston), Supp. Actress (Annette Bening), Adapted Screenplay