What do you do when you've made one of the biggest hits of all time but no amount of money can tempt your cast or director back? You pay the writer whatever he asks (then pay him even more not to direct after his directorial debut, Cannery Row, flops), hope that no-one will notice that Paul Newman and Robert Redford have turned into Jackie Gleason (well, if you can't get The Hustler, hire Minnesota Fats) and Mac Davis and put a II after the title. Or at least that's what Universal did in 1983 with The Sting II (aka The Next Sting), having learned nothing from the box-office failure of Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. One of that surprisingly large band of sequels to blockbusters that time has completely forgotten, it has the feel of a TV pilot with slightly better production values and little beyond the basic plot device. Curiously even the first names of many of the characters are changed - Henry Gondorff becomes Fargo Gondorff and Johnny Hook*r becomes Jake Hook*r: why is a mystery since they're clearly meant to be the same characters since Doyle Lonnergan is out to kill them (though he's undergone a complete character transformation in Oliver Reed's literate incarnation).
This time it's a boxing scam involving Karl Malden's brash racketeer and Teri Garr's conwoman, but the con's mostly on any unsuspecting audiences expecting any of the style or ingenuity of the original. It's the kind of film that did no-one any favors: director Jeremy Paul Kagan was once the next big thing until this flopped spectacularly, Jackie Gleason went on to another forgotten and unwanted sequel, Smokey and the Bandit 3 while Mac Davis disappeared into guest spots on TV and living off the royalties for In the Ghetto. David S. Ward shows that he could have been a serviceable b-movie scribe at one of the smaller studios in the 30s, but it really needs the kind of ensemble a Warners Bros. could have given it in the 30s - Cagney, O'Brien, Allen Jenkins, Joan Blondell et al - to have ever had a chance to pass muster. The opening title cards, however, are things of real beauty and it's a shame they have to end and the movie has to start