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Jan 17

Number 174 The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler is number 174 of our top 200 movie list.  It is directed by Robert Rossen and stars Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, and Piper Laurie.

Kenny’s Review

The Hustler takes an old fashioned morality story about learning that character is what makes you a true champion not just the skill level one possess and drops it in a shady pool hall full of classic characters.  Paul Newman in probably his greatest role plays Fast Eddie a pool shark that has traveled from California to the heartland of the United States to take on Minnesota Fats played by Jackie Gleason.  When Eddie gets his chance to play Fats it is like two titans clashing in battle. The good thing about this movie is that you do not even have to understand a single thing about pool to enjoy what happens in the pool hall.  It is more about the facial expressions in the room, the lighting, the set, and the action off the table that makes the scene special.  During the epic match Eddie goes from being down big to up big, but the match takes a turn when professional gambler Bert Gordon, George C. Scott, enters the hall and calls Eddie a, “loser.”  Eddie continues to play despite being up big and eventually loses it all.

Eddie refuses defeat because his personality will not let him.  Leaving the pool hall Eddie decides he is going to stick around town to challenge Fats again.  In town Eddie runs into Sarah Packard, Piper Laurie, who is just as flawed as Eddie is and I think that is what draws them together.  Eddie then is told by Bert Gordon that he will need $3,000 to take on Fats again.  Eddie goes back to hustling and unfortunately for Eddie takes on a local pool shark that ends up having Eddie’s thumbs broke after the game.  Eddie is taken care of by Sarah who tells him that she loves him, but Eddie only has one thing on his mind which is to be the best pool player and to be that he needs Fats to tell him that he is.

Once Eddie is healed Bert Gordon finds him and tells him he will stake Eddie and give him 25% of any earnings.  Eddie does not like the deal but goes with it.  At this point in the movie there is a shift in the movies story arc.  Eddie has two forces pulling on him Sarah who he likes but cannot love because of where his focus lies and Bert who Eddie needs to get that chance to take on Fats to see who the best is.  Sarah loves him and Bert only cares about financial gain and sees Sarah as a threat to Eddie’s focus. What will Eddie do, will Bert be able to drive Sarah and Eddie apart, and will Eddie ever get a chance to take and beat Minnesota Fats?  To find out you will have to watch the Hustler.

The Hustler is brilliantly shot in black in white which highlights the gritty nature of the film and its cast.  The acting is superb across the board and perfectly casted.  No wonder The Hustler was nominated for 9 Academy Awards.  The Hustler is raw, a little dark, and very original.  They definitely do not make movies like this anymore.  I give it four and a half shells out of five.
4 and a half shells

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