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The Hustler (Rossen, 1961) - TSPDT #336




The pocket pool hustler Fast Eddie tries to win against the king of billards: Minnesota Fats, but his blind ambition and hubris makes him lose. He manages to overcome his faults but pays a high price.

Newman was impressive in the film, but the performances of Piper and Scott took the cake. Her vulnerable, strangely undetermined Sarah, confronted by the unscrupulous and straight-talking Bird was fascinating to watch. The way Piper delivered her lines was amazing, especially the love scene. I felt I could almost touch her constant wavering of opinions. Newman left me strangely cold, it's hard to pinpoint why - maybe he should have been established more ruthless in the beginning of the picture.

There was a highly surrealist element in the script: the incessant drinking. The characters easily downed a load of bottles of Bourbon and who knows what during the first big match at Ames. Everybody seems to be drinking gallons of booze throughout the picture, yet they seem only modestly drunk or tired. Maybe that's why I couldn't take Eddie's insistence to continue playing very seriously - the guy was way past alcohol poisoning of a veritable sized battleship of alcohol-hardened sailors. It's even more bizarre when he stops drinking in the second part.

Another thing I noticed that I sometimes was unsure about the mood the characters were in a particular scene. With Piper and Scott this worked great, but Newman I couldn't pinpoint - there is a scene where he "shows off" how good he can play, but that was really a bit over the top.

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