The Hustler – IMDb 247/250
Firstly I would like to apologise for the long delay since my last review, I have been house hunting and working like a real grown up! But I’ve found time in my busy schedule (it really isn’t all that busy), to finally get my review up of the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Paul Newman, Piper Laurie and Jackie Gleeson.
Paul Newman gives a fantastic performance as ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson, a small time pool hustler looking to join the big time, high stakes gambling scene of pool, hoping to win big money as well as showcase that he really is the best pool player in the US.
However not everything goes as planned for ‘Fast’ Eddie, as he finds himself well and truly beaten by famous pool player Minnesota Fats, played by Gleeson, and the film tells the story of Felson looking to gain retribution for that defeat, but also come to terms with who he is as a person, with Piper Laurie playing the troubled Sarah, an alcoholic who gradually shows Felson what it truly means to be a human, but only after a horrible tragedy can Eddie see what really matters.
The film I have to say starts extremely slowly. The 24 hour pool marathon between our two players Felson and Fats really does drag at times, and I found it extremely hard to get that invested in a pool game. It has to be said it does exude the draining and exhausting nature of this pool game, especially for Felson, whose excessive drinking throughout the marathon game begins to take its toll, and we as an audience feel how tough it is on him , but my overarching feeling was simply please let someone win this bloody game.
The Hustler is very much an American film, and it really has this feel, which is perhaps why I didn’t connect with it, we primarily play snooker not pool, so perhaps if I was from the US I would have felt somewhat more attached to this film, though saying that a movie about snooker doesn’t sound all that appealing either.
Once the pool match was finally over the film began to greatly improve. It wasn’t simply a film about pool hustling and the sport but a real look into the reality and dynamic of winning and losing, of human morality, and of course, how hard it is to drink that much whiskey and continue to function. The drinking in this film put the characters of Mad Men to shame!
I thought the acting throughout the film was tremendous. It was the first time I had seen Paul Newman in a film that wasn’t Cars and I can see why he was so highly thought of as an actor, and George C. Scott did a brilliant job of capturing the opportunistic and villainous nature of Bert Gordon, and would have been Oscar nominated for the role if he hadn’t turned it down.
I found Piper Laurie’s character highly interesting as well, and she did a great job of giving the character of Sarah real depth without blatantly stating what this woman was going through, as we never truly learn much about what made her the way she is. The end for her character was also really surprising for a film of this time.
But although the second half of the film was a big improvement on the first, I really thought the movie dragged, and at a running time of over 2 hours it was far too long, and though characters such as ‘Fast’ Eddie and Minnesota Fats are memorable, sadly I just couldn’t build any connection with the film they were in, and when I start looking at the clock while watching a movie I know something must be wrong.
What I didn’t know is that The Colour of Money is a sequel to this film, and Newman would go on this time to win the academy award for his performance as Felson. The Hustler did do enough for me to want to watch The Colour of Money and see what happened to his character, though strangely, although perhaps better known than The Hustler, The Colour of Money isn’t on the IMDb top 250 list.
I can see why The Hustler is thought of so highly, particularly in America, it feels like a classic piece of American cinema, but I do think an English audience would struggle to really build much of a connection with this movie, even if they can enjoy and sympathise with the characters.
My Rating: 5/10