The next film we'll be watching is the 1960 classic The Hustler, starring a charming young actor named Paul Newman. Maybe you've heard of him. It's about the most thrilling game of all: pool.
Fast Eddie Felson is an arrogant, up-and-coming pool player who makes a living by pulling the old, "Oh, I've never played pool before, is it hard? Am I holding the stick right?" gag. He sets the scene to hustle a pool legend, Minnesota Fats, which results in a 25 hour long showdown. Drunk and tired, Eddie eventually loses all of his money.
But when he heads to the bus station to head home, he meets Sarah, a college student with aspirations of writing and a fondness for the drink, and the two start a relationship. Eddie moves in with her, and does some small time hustles to make ends meet. Until he humiliates a lesser pool player so badly that he and his friends beat him up and break his thumbs.
I know, it seems a little extreme to me too. But they made it real clear they don't like no pool sharks around here, you hear, boy??
So Eddie's got a pair of broken thumbs and things aren't really looking great for him. He gets all moody and depressed. But once his fingers heal, "manager" Bert Gordon is interested in getting action for him. Bert's pretty much a douche, but in a suave and collected way.
|Like a younger, clean shaven, unaccented version of this guy.|
Having his heart ripped out and stepped on apparently gives Eddie the get-up-and-go he needs to challenge Minnesota Fats to a rematch, only now it doesn't feel so important. He bets all the money he has in the world on one pool game...and he wins. Bert demands his share of the money, and Eddie's pretty much like:
Bert backs down embarrassingly quickly. The End!
- I love hustlers. I wish I was good enough at something so that I could hustle people. That's like my goal in life. OMG. I got it. Air hockey. I'm amazing at air hockey. Is it weird to try and hustle someone at air hockey?
|This kid knows what I'm talking about.|
- I am both shocked and awed by the fact that IMDB says Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason did all of their own shots except for one. That's pretty impressive.
- Who are these assholes who can spare 25 straight hours playing pool? Don't they have lives, jobs? More importantly, who are these assholes who have 25 straight hours to sit around watching other people play pool?
- Is it weird that I kind of find it endearing that Sarah has a drinking problem? It gives her a flaw that makes her different from so many other love interests in movies, and makes her a little more interesting and relatable.
- And I love when he slaps her and she just says, "What, are you waiting for me to cry?" That broad is tough as nails. So many men hit women to intimidate them, and it's refreshing to see someone stand up and tell him it's not working.
- Leave it to Paul Newman to make pool sexy. Pool is traditionally the game of drunk, pot-bellied, middle-aged men.
- I've never seen this whole movie before, but I have seen the scene where he gets beaten up. I could have sworn that I remember actually seeing them break his thumbs. I guess that's the hallmark of good filmmaking, though!
- Oh Paul, you've fallen into the classic blunder. Every girl knows that if you suddenly take her out to a nice restaurant, it's because you've either got something really good or really bad to say. You should have saved your money and just told her you were leaving at the house, she would have respected you more for it.
So that's The Hustler. I think Fast Eddie is a good character and Paul Newman is really great at playing him. He brings loads of arrogance, charm, and sexuality to a role that really needs a strong personality to pack a punch. George C Scott may have been the stronger actor in this film, but Paul Newman's the movie star.
The pool scenes are excitingly shot, and it creates action in what is a pretty stationary sport. At two hours and fifteen minutes, though, it does feel a little long for it's own good. This type of movie should be sharply edited to keep the energy up, but the director has instead elected for a more languid pace. Regardless, after the great introduction sequence, it slows down, and by the time Sarah shows up, the movie starts to drag for a little while. It speeds up again, of course, and it doesn't bring the movie down completely, but it's something I would have liked to have seen done differently. Overall, I consider this a strong movie with a few minor pacing issues.
Thanks for reading, and come back next time!