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The Hustler

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Hustler

Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason
Director: Robert Rossen
Rated: NR
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: September 1961
Genres: Drama, Classic

*Also starring: Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, Jake LaMotta, Vincent Gardenia

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

Like so many classic black and white films from the early 1960s, "The Hustler" is a tense, brooding drama whose only humor is ironic in nature. "The Hustler" is an outstanding film that explores the relationships between talent and success, love and desperation, and greed and evil.

Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) is a pool hustler, traveling from city to city with fellow con Myron McCormick. Certain that he is the best pool player around, Felson challenges Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason, in his best film role) and loses. Newman nurses his wounded pride with the help of alcoholic cripple Piper Laurie, and is forced to team up with creepy, manipulative gambler George C. Scott in order to mount a comeback. Murray Hamilton, best remembered as the Mayor in "Jaws", plays a Southern aristocrat whose confidence is as over-extended as Newman's.

Based on the Walter Tevis novel, "The Hustler" was nominated for a mountain of Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Rossen), Best Actor (Newman), Best Actress (Laurie), Best Supporting Actor (Gleason, Scott), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Sidney Carroll). The film won Oscars for Best B & W Cinematography (Eugen Shuftan) and for its sets.

The strength of "The Hustler" comes from the script, which gives the characters both depth and great lines. The story is filled with tension, deriving not only from Felson's fortunes at pool, but also from his shifting relationships with Laurie, Scott and McCormick. Newman and especially Laurie are sympathetic characters, and it is always uncertain whether Newman's skill at pool can overcome his personal demons.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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