1992. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson.

One of only four films by Robinson. He waited 10 years to do his next one, The Sum of All Fears.

THE SHOT: Robert Redford, et alia, must steal and re-steal a thingamajig that could change the course of blah de blah.

TONE: Polished, smooth, thrill-seeking entertainment.

Brisk, witty, professional direction, a terrific, utterly original script that wrings tension from phone calls, car rides, flocks of ducks, computer terminals and Scrabble tiles.  A brilliant hook, a compelling villain (complete with Li’l Villain Shark Tank [tm]), a great cast (Sidney Freaking Poitier!  Dan Ackroyd, acting!  David Strathairn Before Anyone Knew Who He Was!  Stephen Tobolowsky In The Second Greatest Role of His Career!).  River Phoenix is strangely underused, and Ben Kingsley has been given a bizarre accent (must be all that time spent in prison), but otherwise, superlative entertainment.

And a great capper for Redford’s career, almost a final-exam kind of picture.  Draws together themes and elements from his whole career, from The Hot Rock and The Candidate, through The Sting, Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men.  There’s even the WASP guilt of Quiz Show thrown in for good measure.

James Earl Jones, voice of Verizon, gets to introduce himself by saying “We spoke on the phone.”


1. We find out, at the end of Act II, that Ben Kingsley is the guy who hired Redford to steal the whatsit.  Why?  I guess he knew that Redford was capable of finding and stealing it, but why didn’t he just hire his goons to go capture and torture the mathemetician?  And didn’t he suspect that Redford would know what it was, and try to keep it for himself?

2. Who does Ben work for?  When we meet him, he says he works for the Mafia.  Then later, we find out that his office is withing the offices of a toy company.  It is also explained that the toy company is a front (you know, the “mechanical dog skeleton art” in the lobby would have tipped me off that this was no ordinary toy company).  But Stephen Tobolowsky really does design toys.  So apparently there is some actual toy design going on at the toy company.  So, is the toy company a Mafia front?  And if they’re really making toys, how is it a front?  Or, is the toy company simply Ben’s business (he describes the Mafia as his “day job”), the thing he does while he’s planning to take over the world?

DOES CRIMEPAY?  I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
hit counter html code


5 Responses to “Sneakers”
  1. craigjclark says:

    Stephen Tobolowsky In The Second Greatest Role of His Career!

    I take it you consider his greatest role to either be Sammy Jankis in Memento or Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. Probably Ned.

    Of course, it could be argued that Tobolowky’s greatest role is as Himself in Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party, which made the rounds of various festivals last year and is getting a general release on May 30 (which is — it should be noted — his 55th birthday). At least, I hope it’s getting a general release. I know I’d like to see it.

  2. clownsaw says:

    (I’m well aware that I’m responding to a post you made two years ago, but…)

    This movie always worked for me because the script really knows how to present characters as smart, rather than just making ridiculous connections between plot points as necessary. Sneakers really shows the characters thinking things through, and they’re developed enough that we really believe that they’re actually this canny to work it out.