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|Index||140 reviews in total|
140 out of 173 people found the following review useful:
"We Have A Contract Of Depravity", 16 January 1999
Author: Michael Coy (email@example.com) from London, England
"The Hustler" is steeped in the seedy atmosphere of smoke-filled pool
halls in the ugly urban hinterland of America.
The Ames Billiard Hall is funereal in feel. When 'Fast Eddie' Felson walks
in with Charlie, his manager, Charlie remarks, "These tables are the slabs
they lay the stiffs on." The film is about the talented men who perform,
but equally about the talentless predators who exploit them. The habitues
of the pool hall cling to the shadows. They wince when a blind is opened
and sunlight gets in. A new hustler enters, and these vultures gather
silently on the margins.
Eddie is the youngster hungry for glory. He and Charlie pose as salesmen and Eddie feigns drunkenness, hooking the punters by repeating an almost-impossible shot. For all the slickness of the con, Eddie is impatient for bigger things. He wants to challenge Minnesota Fats, the best hustler in the land.
Newman gets his name above the title, but this is a film with four exquisite pieces of acting. Jackie Gleason as Minnesota, Piper Laurie as Sarah and George C Scott, playing Bert Gordon, turn in wonderful performances.
Eddie matures as the story progresses. He starts as a cheap chiseller, hustling ten bucks, but ambition carries him to Louisville and the world of the high rollers. Sarah's love opens emotional dimensions in him which he previously lacked. Bert Gordon confronts him with his own spiritual inadequacies, forcing him to understand himself. Eddie is jejune in the first game against the Fat Man, but by the second meeting he is emotionally strong, and completely his own man. He has made the spiritual journey from the whining "everybody wants a piece of me" to the inner knowledge that Sarah bequeathed him - that only those who give can truly live.
Bert Gordon, with his dark glasses and hawkish features, is a creature of the night. Loving the 'action' of a clash of talents, but lacking any talent of his own, Gordon is the predator on the sidelines. Hearing of the new hustler's presence, Gordon arrives soundlessly and sits watching intently for hours. His dark genius sees the weakness in every soul. In the bar, when he and Eddie talk business, Gordon is foreshortened to look tiny alongside the talented youngster. For all his money and sharp wits, Gordon will never be more than a parasite living off the ability of others. Finally, Eddie and Fats walk into the sunlight, heroes who have proved themselves. Gordon remains perched on his gloomy barstool, a prisoner in his own dark kingdom.
If Sarah is the vulnerable, physically-disabled woman who relies on drink too heavily, the victim of the men she encounters, she is also the heart of the movie. She destroys Gordon's certainty and she shows Eddie the meaning of love. Her tragedy is Eddie's salvation. She and Eddie find each other in a deserted bus station in the dead hours. They are both lost souls, Citizens of Hell. She is the deformed girl with the empty life, and he is the emotional cripple with no resources of education or character to sustain him. They cling to each other as if shipwrecked. When the seduction comes, Sarah hesitates. She knows this will lead to suffering. "Why me?" she asks, then surrenders to her fate.
The time when Eddie's hands are in plaster is Sarah's brief season of happiness. She stops drinking and even makes progress with her writing. Somebody needs her, belongs completely to her. It cannot last.
"I made you up, Eddie," Sarah tells him, and in a sense she did. She imagined him to be loyal and stable. On the night when the truth dawns, Sarah goes from feeling pretty in her new dress to being a rain-sodden wreck. She is supplanted in Eddie's attention by the sinister Gordon, who asserts the new power-balance in the railroad dining-car. The hotel suites are adjoining, and though Sarah closes all the doors, she can't keep Gordon out. By Findlay's party, she has hit the bottle again. The patterned dress which Eddie bought her, a symbol of her incarceration, has the shadow of the ballustrade projected onto it, seemingly magnifying her sense of ensnarement.
Though Jackie Gleason does very little in this film, he dominates it. On screen for a fraction of the film's totality, and having neither great speeches nor grand gestures, he impresses by his sheer presence. Stillness, self-containment and an ironic amusement make Minnesota Fats the perfect foil for the angry, ambitious Eddie. In the final showdown, Fats' quiet poise outshines the grandstanding of the others. Gleason conveys beautifully the fear at the core of this big dandy. When Eddie has him in trouble, the Fat Man begins to lose his sartorial integrity as his confidence unravels.
This contrast of stillness and motion is effective in the first meeting of the hustlers. Fats and Gordon, who know what they are about, remain motionless and tranquil. Eddie the incontinent wannabe gradually loses control of both mouth and limbs. The film is rich in symbolic language. The cheap rooms which Eddie rents are mere boxes for hire, like the bus station locker which he lives out of. When he and Sarah meet for the second time, the inevitability of their coupling is conveyed in a scene without words or gestures. Eddie's plastercasts are manacles - without his hands, he is nothing. A sumptuous restaurant and a happy couple are transformed when the brutal truth emerges. The camera angle is reversed, and Eddie and Sarah are now separated by gaunt shelves of crockery. The illusion has been shattered. When Eddie sneaks out on the sleeping Sarah with the stake money in his hand, it is the betrayal of Charlie re-enacted.
A marvellous film is enhanced by a superbly sleazy jazz score (Kenyon Hopkins) and the violence is all the more gut-wrenching for being suggested, rather than shown.
Verdict - probably a masterpiece.
84 out of 117 people found the following review useful:
A Talented Loser, 29 October 2005
Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
It's an intriguing idea. If a person is talented, that person should be
a winner. And, we would expect a loser to be someone who is not
talented. But the idea that someone could be a talented loser is a
paradox, a contradiction that doesn't fit into the conventional mindset
of American culture, and is the basis for "The Hustler", a character
study of an ace pool player who can't seem to win respect from his
The pool player is (Fast) Eddie Felson (Paul Newman). The plot moves along by means of four secondary characters with whom Fast Eddie interacts: (1) his manager, Charlie; (2) the veteran pool player, Minnesota Fats; (3) Eddie's girlfriend, Sarah; and (4) the money man, Bert Gordon.
"The Hustler" is very much a product of the late 50's and early 60's, when progressive filmmakers were trying to buck the staid post WWII era, with its reactionary Cold War mentality that resulted in strict conformity to established American values. In this film, Bert Gordon and Minnesota Fats represent the establishment. Eddie Felson is the loner, up against the establishment; he's the renegade kid, out to beat the system. Yet, at every turn, the establishment beats Eddie, one way or another. His idealism is useless. He must conform to the establishment's rules, expressed in the film as "character", or give up his dreams.
The film is therefore very cynical and incredibly cold. From start to finish, there's not an ounce of humor. It depresses the spirit. But the film is a very good metaphor for a terrible era wherein societal repression was the norm.
While the story's main character may be a loser, the film itself is a talented winner. The excellent B&W lighting, together with a jazzy score, create an effectively somber and downbeat tone, consistent with the oppressive political atmosphere of that era. The dialogue is sparse and incisive. And the acting is persuasive. Paul Newman is convincing, as are the secondary characters. I especially liked the performance of Jackie Gleason, who comes across as suave, serious, and in total control, a great contrast to his comedic side, in "The Honeymooners".
"The Hustler" is depressing and grim. But the film is very well made. It entertains in ways that are obvious, and educates in ways that are subtle.
51 out of 68 people found the following review useful:
More praise heaped onto enduring classic, 18 January 2004
Author: Cue-ball from Austin, Texas
I've seen The Hustler repeated times, thought not as many as some of the
other commentators. Recently I saw it for the first time in the theater, at
the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Watching "The Hustler" in a theater is like
listening to Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" album: you start to see and even hear
things in black and white. You know the pool tables are green, and the
balls are multi-colored, but somehow the black and white perfectly matches
the colorless existence of the protagonist and his supporting players. You
can smell the cigarettes, taste the booze.
Newman, Gleason, Scott, and Laurie all turn in great performances. But this movie, made after the heyday of the studio players' contract, still bears the hallmark of great movies from that era: strong supporting performances all the way down the line. Vincent Gardenia, for pete's sake, as the unlucky bartender in the first scene! Michael Constantine as Big John. Myron McCormick as Charlie, Eddie's sponsor most of the way through the movie. And Murray Hamilton as the millionaire Southern mark. This movie was made when supporting roles were an end in themselves, by actors who believed every second they were on screen should be of high quality.
The day I wrote this review -- January 18, 2004 -- The Hustler was no. 143 on the Top 250 list. No way are there 142 better movies.
44 out of 60 people found the following review useful:
Superb film by a great director., 4 May 1999
Author: Joseph Harder from warren michigan
Because of his tragically erratic, often interrupted career, Robert Rossen is rarely put into the pantheon of great Hollywood directors. However, he produced three films which deserve a permanent place among the classics, All the Kings Men( probably the best film about American politics), Lilith( one of the greatest films about mental illness) and this, a movie which DESERVES to be ranked with the hundred greatest, and possibly the fifty greatest, American films. It is superbly acted, brilliantly photographed and edited, and directed with clarity and assurance. In a just world ( if there is such a place), an special Oscar would have been bestowed on Newman, Laurie, Scott, and Gleason AS A GROUP. Piper Laurie was unforgettably poignant, Scott unforgettably sleazy, and Gleason... well, Gleason simply IS Minnesota Fats. Paul Newman almost certainly deserved the Oscar.It was an amusing irony, perhaps a little joke by God, that the bartender in the movie was played by none other than Jake LaMotta.
35 out of 49 people found the following review useful:
Best Sports Movie Ever, 2 October 2004
Author: Ajtlawyer from Richland, WA
I think "The Hustler" is the best sports movie ever made. Fast Eddie
Felson is perhaps the most talented pool shooter in the country and
yet, at his core, he's a born loser. Why is Eddie so self-destructive?
He has Minnesota Fats, ostensibly the country's greatest player, beaten
in the first marathon match only to drink himself into insensibility
and let Fats off the hook.
Throughout the movie Eddie is surrounded by other people who are self-destructive or only interested in making a buck off of him. Even Charlie, his original manager (Myron McCormick in a terrific role)needs him for a meal ticket. Bert, his second manager, is a slithering, calculating parasite who uses everyone around him. Sara, Eddie's pathetic girlfriend, is going through life in an aimless, alcoholic haze.
The movie really lets you into the lives of these people who live on the margins of society. The cinematography is outstanding, the settings and mood of the movie draw you in totally. The acting is uniformly outstanding from top to bottom. Great movies get great performances from the minor characters, too. Vincent Gardenia, Michael Constantine, Murray Hamilton and McCormick are perfect in the smaller roles while Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie (all getting well-deserved Oscar nominations) and George C. Scott are indelible in the major roles. Even boxer Jake LaMotta has a cameo as a bartender.
Can Eddie finally overcome being a born loser? Can love redeem any of these lost people? What makes a person a champion? Is it talent alone or does a champion need some inner demon that can only be defeated by pursuing victory at all costs?
28 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
The Definitive Movie About Pool, 12 January 2005
Author: dballred from Oklahoma City
This is, without a doubt, the closest anything out of Hollywood ever
came to touching the soul of a pool player. Paul Newman plays "Fast
Eddie" Felson, a young player from California who travels east to take
on the ultimate challenge: to beat "Minnesota Fats," played by the late
Willie Mosconi, probably the greatest pool player who ever walked the Earth, was technical adviser and choreographed many of the game sequences. On technical merit alone, this film is a pool player's classic. Beyond that, however, the way "Fast Eddie" takes to his skills and relationships pushes this film out as a classic for the general audience. In one scene, he is describing what it is like to be really good at something. It is one of the best speeches about excellence I have ever heard. This is one of my top three films. On a scale of ten, I give it an eleven.
30 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful, 14 December 2003
Author: rbverhoef (firstname.lastname@example.org) from The Hague, Netherlands
Possible minor spoilers.
'The Hustler' is a great movie that involves the game of pool. Although this is important it is not really about the game. It is more about the life around it, Fast Eddie Felson's life in particular. Paul Newman plays this man in a terrific way. Eddie is a great pool player, he could be the best, if only he had more character. This is what Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) tells him. It is true. Eddie is a self-destructive man. He drinks too much and he does not know when to stop. At one point early in the movie he is playing the man who is considered the best of the country, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), and he has won 18.000 dollars but he gets too drunk and loses everything.
(Minor spoilers.) Then he meets a girl Sarah (Laurie Piper) who, like him, drinks too much. They start living together and it seems that Eddie is changing, but we suspects he is always thinking about playing Minnesota Fats again. Eddie gets in some trouble, his thumbs are broken, and after this he decides that he needs Bert Gordon to get back on track again. Gordon made him an offer before his thumbs were broken which seemed pretty unfair but now Eddie thinks he has no choice. He has the woman he loves on one side, who could get him out of trouble, and the game of pool and his desire to be the best on the other. What will happen is for you to see.
The interesting story about this self-destructive man is also about the self-destructive woman and the events around her are almost inevitable. The hero is a hero in most ways, but it is a hero who must face his weaknesses instead of discovering his strong points. This kind of hero is rare these days. Paul Newman shows us why he became such a great star with this memorable role.
Other things are very good too here. Although the game is never explained it is fun to watch every shot, some of them almost impossible. The black and white cinematography looks great. Fast Eddie Felson would return in Martin Scorsese's 'The Color of Money', a lesser film in some points but very good as well.
46 out of 78 people found the following review useful:
Newman responding to the occasion with his most creative performance , 14 October 2005
Author: ironside (email@example.com) from Mexico
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director-scriptwriter Robert Rossen provides a realistic glimpse into
the dirty world of the pool hall, and makes it a battleground on which
strength and courage are tested
Fast Eddie is not the traditional, heroic white knight He's a crafty pool hustler, a man who makes his money by tricking opponents into thinking he's not as good as he really is But he wants more than cheap hustlinghis ambition is to beat the country's top player, Minnesota Fats, and this places him with Newman's other obsessed seekers of grand goals
Newman really gets inside the charactermakes us feel his desperate drive In the opening scenes, depicting Eddie's marathon match with Fats (Jackie Gleason), he personifies overwhelming confidence, coolness and conceit; as Eddie puts it, he's "fast and loose." He grins, moves with assurance around the table, and baits Fats: "I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about it every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it."
But there's an underlying insecurity, and a self-destructive tendency He doesn't know when to stop, and even though he's $18,000 ahead, he won't quit until Fats is demolished His cockiness leads him to become careless and eventually to fall into a drunken stupor Fats, in contrast, remains casual and emotionally serene, and he takes all of Eddie's money As Fats' manager, the crafty, snake-like Gordon (George C. Scott), says, Eddie's "a loser."
Eddie's arrogance is unpleasant and his lack of restraint is pathetic, but he's partially redeemed by his affair with Sarah (Piper Laurie), a self-pitying, sore, worn-out alcoholic, whose vulnerability attracts him It's a splendidly enacted relationship between two derelicts, beginning as a casual pickup and developing into tentative affection Initially all they do is drink and make love, and, even though Sarah (Piper Laurie) realizes he is not much better than a bum, she (like many women in Newman films) wants more The turning point occurs when Eddie again loses his restraint and shows off to some men he's hustling, whereupon they break his thumbs Now, for the first time, he needs Sarah's help, and their relationship deepens as he realizes his dependence upon her
And she's the only person he can talk to about what most moves him In a picnic on a hillsideone of the best scenes in Newman's careerEddie explains that he lost his restraint with the small-time players because he had to show them what pool is like "when it's really great." He says that at times he becomes so immersed in pool that his arm and the cue perform as one beautifully functioning organism This speech is rendered almost poetic by Newman's passionate expression and delivery; together with earlier scenes in which we saw Eddie's movements in the game and his look of admiration at Fats' grace, it convinces us that whether he wins or loses, Eddie is alive only when playing pool
Sarah is moved to express her love, but the closest he can come is: "You need the words?" She does, but he can't say them And ultimately, whatever love he may feel is overshadowed by the all-consuming need to get back at Fats He cruelly rejects his fatherly manager (Myron McCormick), who has no such haughty ambitions, and becomes a slave to Gordon, who says he'll always be a loser unless he rids himself of Sarah
"The Hustler" is Newman's most balanced characterizationon the one hand, ruthless ambition, arrogant confidence and inability to express love; on the other, vulnerability, recognition of dependence and genuine self-realizationand he brings it all off to perfection It was his most critically acclaimed performance to that time The film received nine Oscar nominations, including Newman's second as Best Actor The award went to the vastly inferior Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg), but Newman did win the British Academy Award
23 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
An All Time Classic, 28 August 2005
Author: jzathajenious from Adelaide Australia
When is a movie about pool not a movie about pool? When it's The
Hustler. Watching this for the first time, i was expecting a movie full
of games of pool with trick shots galore, with Newman the hero getting
the girl and beating Fats the champ, role credits...a nice little feel
good story. wow, was i ever mistaken (and very pleasantly surprised to
be). The Hustler is filled with great performances: Newman, Gleason,
Scott, and Laurie all give great, GREAT performances that makes a
fairly simplistic plot with little real action absolutely riveting to
watch. Newman is great as Eddie the born loser with talent coming out
of his ears, but not enough brains to know how to utilise it best.
Gleason is great and says a lot with simple body language more than the
few lines he has. Scott is phenomenal as always as a soulless gambler
only looking out for himself and dragging all those around him down as
well. Laurie is perfectly suited to her character, a desperate, lonely
alcoholic who seems to know her relationship with Eddie is bad for both
of them, yet is unwilling or unable to break free.
The Hustler is amazingly written, with quotable lines and dialogue that just cuts deep into the cores of these characters; as they interact with each other and are forced to show their true colours, we see the true people underneath as the facade is stripped away. These are damaged, broken, confused, troubled souls who seem to gravitate towards one another, as if they can sense a kindred spirit. I have to say that the reason these characters resonated so strongly with me, is because, as unpleasant as it is to do so, i can see elements of myself in each character.
This kind of movie is one that would be nigh on impossible to get made in contemporary Hollywood. A downbeat story from start to finish, with unlikeable characters, it is one of the greatest films i have ever seen. an absolute classic in the purest sense.
20 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Great stuff, brilliant acting, 9 January 2001
Author: quin1974 (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Den Haag, The Netherlands
This must be one of the best movies I have ever seen. Just about everything
was perfect about it.
The acting was top-notch, especially George C. Scott as the Hustler hustling the hustler. His performance gave the movie a gritty underworld feel to it. Piper Laury delivers a powerhouse performance as the ill-fated drunk girlfriend of the lead player Paul Newman. He probably delivers one of his best roles to date. Just like Robert De Niro in Raging Bull he plays a character who is incapable of handling the pressures of fame and fortune, who is as George C. Scott's says "A born loser". If you look in Newman's eyes during the picture you can see the troubles he is going through. He loves the girl, but is unable to express this because he is afraid she will know the real him. He has to keep playing this Hustler-character all through his life to keep himself going. He knows nothing other than playing pool and hustling people out of their money.
The cinematography was absolutely brilliant alongside the set-dressing. The dirty, low-life feeling that must have hung around these dives called poolhalls was conveyed perfectly to the screen through brilliant lighting and art direction. The scenes in which Newman plays the different people at the pool table were shot and edited to near perfection (which has been redone again to near perfection in The Color of Money by Martin Scorsese).
The music gave a real emotional feel to this moving picture. Kenyon Hopkins deserves all the credit for this.
Absolutely a must-see for everybody who like to watch movies that are worth watching.
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